Mugunghwa: Eternal Blossom That Never Fades

Hayeon Lee, Pomona College


This is a creative thesis exploring the concept of rememory, which I define as the re-understanding of a previous experience as one’s mind adapts and changes to external pressures. I believe that writing is an extension of oneself, and I approach each one of my stories with these fundamental understandings:

  1. All art is political.

  2. One must create with honesty. Search deeply within oneself and be in touch with the truth of your personal feelings and perceptions.

  3. Publish pieces that erode and redefine the boundaries between subjects and disciplines.

  4. To distribute is a privilege. To read is a right. Share art intentionally, realizing that one small action leads to larger reactions.

When writing these three short stories, I thought about the experience of Korean women, specifically through the lens of body ownership, sacrifice, displacement, and the physical and mental effects of national division under the umbrella of the ongoing Korean War. I researched the diaspora of Korean women, including adoptees, in America, South Korea, North Korea, and Japan, and their different points of view in connection to their homeland. With the emerging feminist movement and an outcry for LGBTQ+ rights and protection contrasted with the backdrop of the rising conservative party in South Korea, I explored the frustration of navigating systems that were colonized and rebuilt solely for the benefit of the heterosexual male.

This thesis includes three short stories: JK Girl, which is about a zainichi, Korean-Japanese high school girl in the JK business, a child prostitution business in Japan; Woman of the Sea, which features a Korean American, gyopo, narrator reflecting on her memories of Jejudo, her potter grandfather, and her haenyeo grandmother; and Water Meat, an autofiction piece about a Korean-American character in Los Angeles re-understanding their memories and past through her connection with water. All characters are unnamed.