Kim, Pok-chin [김복진, 金復鎭] (1901–1940) By Lee, Jungsil Jenny
Kim Pok-chin was a pioneering modern sculptor, art critic, and socialist agitator who led a progressive literary movement in colonial Korea. Studies of Kim and his art date mostly after 1988, due to national security laws in South Korea that had prevented previous research. Kim learned sculpture at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts from 1920 to 1925. He left behind a wide range of work on both traditional and modern subjects. In his nudes, monumental statues of great Korean historical figures, and Buddhist subjects, Kim’s style was representational, realistic, and Western. These works were done in various media such as clay, bronze, gold, and wood. In addition to sculpture, Kim was interested in literature and modern theater. In 1923, he established the play performance group T’owŏlhoe in Japan. Moreover, Kim was a leader of the Socialist writers’ group, KAPF (Korea Artista Proleta Federatio, 1925–1935). He fought for Korea’s liberation from Japan and then for the people’s revolution against Feudalism. From 1928 to 1933, Kim was imprisoned for his secret work with the Communist Party and then died suddenly. During the Korean War, most of his art was lost with only a few Maitreya statues remaining in local Buddhist monasteries.