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Infected Korean Language, Purity versus Hybridity: From the Sinographic Cosmopolis to ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Infected Korean Language, Purity versus Hybridity:


Koh Jongsok’s Infected Language

Ross King

Koh Jongsok’s Infected Language was first published in Seoul in 1999 with the title Kamyŏmdoen ŏnŏ: Kugŏ ŭi pyŏnduri rŭl tamŭn myŏtkae ŭi p’unggyŏnghwa (Infected language: Portraits of the landscape on the periphery of the national language). That this book must have sold reasonably well can be surmised from the fact that a revised and slightly expanded version appeared in 2007 with the same title but carrying the additional chapter “Contamination, Infiltration, Hybridity: A Swipe at Purism in Korean.” The book is difficult to categorize in terms of genre; in effect, it is a series of critical essays about Korean language and writing situated at the intersection of history, politics, linguistics, and literature.

Infected Language is not about the Sinophone world, nor has Korea by any stretch of the imagination ever been a constituent part of that world, as long as one understands Sinophone to mean “Chinese-speaking.” Indeed, most patriotic modern-day Koreans would likely bristle at the notion of a book about modern Korean-language debates appearing in a series about the Chinese-speaking world, and perhaps even Koh Jongsok