Korean critics weigh in on Dylan’s Nobel Prize win

Su Jin Jang, Oct. 14, 2016, 9:18 a.m.

Bob Dylan spent his earlier years not-so-carefully treading the restless social climates of America in the 1960s, belting out subtle, yet politically-charged songs that became anthems for the baby boomer generation. 

He was behind era-defining songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” 

Now, more than five decades later, the American folk singer’s poetic lyrics won him this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Sharing the honor with Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda, T.S. Eliot, and other literary icons, Dylan is the first musician to be awarded the prestigious prize. His fellow Americans have expressed both excitement and confusion at the win, and likewise here, Korean critics have been weighing in on this “unexpected” decision from the Swedish Academy.

“I didn’t see this coming,” said music critic Lim Jin-mo in a local radio interview Friday morning. “His name has been brought up in the past, but now that it has actually happened, it’s a little bit shocking.”

“For the baby boomers, pop music had just as much -- if not more -- influence as novels,” he added. “Before Bob Dylan, most songs were about love and heartbreak, but he completely transformed the music scene with his lyrics about peace, civil rights and anti-war sentiments.”

Literary critic Jung Gwa-li also shared a similar view in an interview. 

“This shows that the Nobel committee has set out to expand the field of literature to include all works of art that expresses literary characteristics,” Jung said Friday.

Culture columnist Kim Hun-sik said that Dylan’s win should encourage musicians, including K-pop idols, to raise the bar and aim higher.

“The important thing is that there is now a new precedent set for artists,” he wrote Friday. “Singer-songwriters like Big Bang should now strive to foster empathy in people everywhere, and bring about change in the world.”

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