Cho Hae-jin, writer and alumna of Ewha, is famous for her novel “Happiness of a Walker,” which won the Lee Hyo-seok Literature Award in 2016. Cho earned both a bachelor’s degree in the Department of Education and a master's degree in the Department of Korean Language & Literature in Ewha. She started her literary career through literary magazine Munye Joongang in 2004, and since then won the Shin Dong-yup Prize for Literature, Yi Sang Literature Award, and several other awards.
“Looking past at my college life in Ewha, I remember walking around the literary section in the library and discovering good books,” Cho said. “As time went by, I realized that those books consoled me and helped me develop. I wish people would read literary works that reproduce the outside of oneself and learn thoughtful attitudes towards others and the world.”
Cho was awarded the The Hyeongpyeong Literary Prize in 2019. The prize is given to writers who have contributed to the development of Korean literature and have inherited the spirit of the Jinju Hyeongpyeong Undong, a representative social equality and human rights movement.
“The Guard of Light” was the novel chosen as the main prize of the 6th Hyeongpyeong Literary Prize, and it was a collection of novels that Cho released from 2013 to 2016. It features nine stories about memories that envelop despair and solitude.
“As the word Hyeongpyeong connotes human rights and equality, I am honored to be awarded a beautiful named prize,” Cho said. “I feel more thankful because the stories are meaningful to me as they were written after I began opening my mind to the world.”
Through “The Guard of Light,” Cho wanted to talk about ties that transcended generations and borders. For example, the title story in the collection handles women experiencing people’s goodwill and gifts. A Jewish woman who had gone through the Holocaust during World War II and a Korean woman in the 2010s who learned about the Jewish woman through a documentary both feel warmness from others. Cho considered the moment of goodwill and gift as the guard of light, and tried to include these enlightening moments in the collection.
“I tend to focus on those who are in despair of not being able to have a portion of belongings for themselves, instead of those who possess and enjoy,” Cho explained why she places great value in human rights when writing novels. “Before I am a writer, I am a human. By writing about the rights of human such as an adopter and military camp town folk, I am able to put myself in other people's shoes and reflect on myself.”
When asked about the efforts needed to achieve social equality, Cho replied that individuals need to know what they have more or less than others. Afterwards, a critical eye is needed to distinguish whether social structural force was applied to the situation of people having more or less. Cho hopes that people would express that type of critical vision in any sort of action. Also, she wants everyone to keep in mind that in whatever category of age, gender or job they lie in, they could be minorities anytime.
While Cho is making plans on writing about Primo Levi, an Italian writer and Holocaust survivor, and preparing a film essay with poet Kim Hyun, she promises to continue being a writer whose writing helps people ruminate the meaning of life.
“The appearance of foreign countries and foreign people in all nine novels seems to be the main reason why “The Guard of Light” inherits the spirit of the Jinju Hyeongpyeong Undong,” Cho emphasizes. “By making foreign people communicate and bond in my novels, I aimed to expand the scope of solidarity beyond our nation and embrace the world.”