First Paperback Novel in Korean, Ttakjibon
In the late Joseon Dynasty, many novels were written about the lives of heroes who came from respectable families and overcame difficulties in life. Several different versions of one original book often existed, and remakes and adaptations of these books were published again in the form of ttakjibon novels. From this we can infer that these kinds of novels were very popular with people of the time. Even though these works can be generally categorized as hero novels, war hero novels were based on actual historical events while others dealt with the protagonist's fictional life story. Hero life story novels included Yuchungryeol-jeon (유충열전), Honggildong-jeon (홍길동전), Jeonuchi-jeon (전우치전), and Janggukjin-jeon (장국진전). In the case of Yuchungryeol-jeon, moral lessons such as loyalty and filial piety were communicated through the protagonist's life story. Janggukjin-jeon was set in Ming Dynasty China and conveyed Buddhist and Taoist worldviews through the life of the protagonist, Janggukjin. Honggildong-jeon and Jeonuchi-jeon unveiled stories about heroes who devoted themselves to the people. Jeonuchi-jeon, however, was not about the hero's life; rather, it had fun stories about the mysterious Taoist magical abilities of the protagonist, Jeonuchi. War story novels included Joung-jeon (조웅전), Jojaryong-jeon (조자룡전), Aegukbuin-jeon (애국부인전), and Pakssi-jeon (박씨전). Aegukbuin-jeon was a novel adapted from the story of Joan of Arc, who led her people to victory in several battles. In the case of Jojaryong-jeon, the main character Jojaryong led his army to victory due to his fearlessness and superhuman powers. In sum, hero novels depicted protagonists who, after confronting and overcoming adversities in life and acquiring special abilities, went on to either become war heroes or dedicate their lives to the pursuit of social justice. As such, these novels were a conduit for the writer's point of view and for voices that criticized society.