Interviews

Yi In-seong and Yan Li: A Dialogue
“Though we may come from different countries, we’re thrilled that we share the same feelings about the current society today.” Yan: As I understand it, you taught at Seoul National University for a long time but retired early. I am curious to know the reason for your early retirement. Was it because you aspired for a more free-spirited life, not to mention your passion for writing? Yi: You must’ve read my mind (laughter). Of course, my idea was to write more prolifically. But I haven’t been able to write that many novels and instead have been living an idle life...
Literary Experiments in Defiance of an Era of Upheavals: Novelist Yi In-seong
Yi In-seong, who made his debut in 1980, sent shock waves throughout the world of Korean literature with his first novel, Seasons of Exile , which experimented with a radical deconstruction of form. Since then, he has opened up a new horizon for novels through relentless linguistic experimentation. Such literary practices have always been anti-mainstream in the world of Korean literature. Yi did not align himself with the trend of politicizing literature, which spread extensively amid the maelstrom of anti-authoritarianism from the 1970s, and since the end of the 1980s, he firmly resisted the commercial tendencies of literature, which became...
Literature Transcending the 1980s: Novelist Park Sangwoo
Investigating how the 1980s affected the literature of the novelist Park Sangwoo is synonymous with delving into the political basis of his writing. Many critics have noted that Park is an author who has manifested the signs and novelties of the 1990s, which are quite different from the preceding decade. But upon a closer look, one can see that his literary themes are derived from his “double consciousness” of the 1980s. Park Sangwoo made his literary debut when he won a literary contest at the age of 30 in 1988, which means he was in his 20s during the 1980s...
A Man of All Interests: Novelist Kim Yeonsu
Kim Yeonsu is a man of habit. For an hour and a half every day he runs. He’s training. This fall he will be running the Chuncheon Marathon, all 42.195 kilometers of it. It’s his second marathon. For another hour or so he listens to music. He thinks it is lazy of classical music snobs to not take advantage of all the other good music out there. In high school he paid the DJ at the local bar and café for lessons on pop music. At one point in his career his byline carried the title of “popular music critic.”...
In Your 20s - Reliving the Most Painful, Brilliant Times: Novelist Kim Ae-ran
Prologue In Korean culture, it is a compliment to be referred to as “precocious.” On the one hand, precocious means “mature beyond one’s age,” but it can also mean “being someone adults like.” Even though the label, “the youngest” always followed Kim Ae-ran around as she received numerous prestigious awards, adults become nervous when they hear her name. Their anxiety is attributed less to her reputation as a feisty novice or prodigy than to her being a young precocious writer. Readers who love her works report that they find Kim’s works surprising not because she is younger than they had...
Catching Children When They Fall: Children’s Book Writer Kim Ryeo-ryeong
Kim Ryeo-ryeong began her career as a fiction writer, but it was in fact a course on children's literature that she took in college that led her to become a children's book writer. It was this, the last kind of literature she was exposed to, that propelled her career. She wrote children's books without knowing that they were books for children. It was only when she had written her book that people asked her if it was a children's book. She wondered if children's literary theory even existed. Or if a book could be defined as a children's book only...
Telling the Lives of the Poor: Novelist Kim Joo-Young
This May I went to the KLTI U.S. Forum held at UCLA with the writer Kim Joo-Young. The theme of the forum was “Looking to Prosperity from Within the Ruins: Korea in Korean Literature,” and Kim spoke with warmth and candor about his eventful past. If one had to sum up Kim’s work in one word, through its journey from ruins to prosperity, that word would be poverty. He comes from Jinbo-myeon, Cheongsong-gun, North Gyeongsang province. While few Koreans who remember the Japanese annexation and the Korean War could say that they did not suffer from poverty, Kim’s impoverished childhood...
Free Spirit Wandering the Roads: Novelist Song Sokze
Having started his career out as a poet, novelist Sung Suk-je continues to reinvent language in the novel form. On an afternoon in mid-July during a break in the monsoon rains, author Song Sokze appeared at our prearranged meeting spot near Hongik University wearing heavily-faded jeans and a simple T-shirt. Down to the laptop rucksack on his back, he blended naturally into the neighborhood, which is a popular haunt for the young. Born in 1960, he is already in his 50s, but his choice of apparel was fresh and his eyes still possessed a boyish curiosity. There wasn’t even a...
Witness to Solitude: Novelist Pyun Hye-Young
We were set to meet near the river. A thick fog was slowly turning the sky an ash grey. It reminded me of a scene from her novel. I pictured the main character, who finds himself all alone in the world. Just then, Pyun Hye-Young walked into the cafe, her face a bright red. Pyun has been one of the most prolific writers in Korea in the last decade. I was thrilled to meet her. As I listened to the sound of her voice and watched the changing expressions on the face of this calm and careful storyteller, I found...
The Face of the Twenty-first Century: Novelist Park Min-gyu
A writer who likens writing to a boxing match, Park Min-gyu leaves behind his slacker past for his improved writing self. Park Min-gyu debuted in 2003 and was the recipient of The Hankyoreh Literature Award and the Munhakdongne New Writer Award. His powerful imagination, understanding of the minority, and original narratives led him to become an iconic figure in 21st century Korean literature. He was recently chosen as the face of Korean literature in the 21st century in a poll of literary critics, and hailed as “spokesman for the trends of the 21st century,” and “challenging the lethargy of the...

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