Writers' Notes

Visit to Guadalajara International Book Fair
When I look at the photos I take during my travels, I see that I am particularly attracted to walls. Photos from any given trip include those of the sun shining brightly on the wall painted in yellow; ivy spreading across the wall creating a strange pattern; different colored windows opening up for air; and mailboxes and water or electricity meters on walls. The same was true in Guadalajara. I especially took a lot of wall photos at the high school where Kim Insuk and Kim Young-ha held their readings. For a while before the event began, I walked around...
Enjoying Korean and Australian Cultural Differences
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Australia, twin literary events were held in each country in May and late August 2011. I'm familiar with Australia because I often enjoy its beef and cheese, but Australian literature was totally foreign to me. I therefore greatly anticipated the literary event held Down Under. I was part of a delegation of South Korean poets including Hwang Tong-gyu, Bak Ra-yeon, and Park Hyung- Jun who took part in the August event, which for all of us was our first visit to Australia. Earlier in May, two poetry readings...
My Impressions of the KLTI Forum in the U.S.
In order to introduce Korean literature to America, KLTI held its first-ever forum in the western part of the U.S. from April 27 to 29. I participated along with Kim Joo-young, Ch’oe Yun, and the literary critics Wu Chan-je and Kim Yonghee. KLTI Director Kim Joo-youn accompanied us in addition to three staff members, who were very helpful in organizing and managing the forum. On April 27th the forum at UCLA began with keynote addresses by KLTI Director Kim Joo-youn and UCLA's Director of the Center for Korean Studies, Dr. John Duncan. Next, novelist Kim Joo-young made a presentation titled,...
Dreaming the Language of Literature and Womanhood
Where? The Arab Emirates, they said. If it wasn’t the UAE, I would not have said yes and agreed to go so readily. Didn’t they tell me I would be going to Abu Dhabi? And to Dubai? The country where I had long dreamed of visiting on my own but had all but given up, as I thought I would never be able to go by myself. Whistling in excitement, I went through a couple of summer outfits but ended up putting them back in the closet. What I am trying to say is that I could not fathom how...
What I Like About Korean Literature
There are many reasons for my interest in Korean literature, both as a reader and critic. It all began about 10 years ago, when I happened to become a “co-translator” with a former dissertation student I considered particularly smart. So it is thanks to Choe Ae-young that I became acquainted with Yi In-seong’s extremely innovative body of work: We translated Saisons d’exil (Paris, 2004) and then Interdit de folie (Paris, 2010), and I do see this writer as an artist of international stature. With the support of the Daesan Foundation and the KLTI, we also translated and published a book...
The World of My Translated Poems: A Wretched Life, a Powerful Voice
1. Windflower (U.S. Edition) 2. Woman on the Terrace (U.S. Edition) 3. Kënga e Shigjetave (Albanian Edition) 4. Die Mohnblume im Haar (German Edition) My first translated collection of poems is Windflower (Hawks Publishing, 2004, translated by Choe Wolhee and Robert E. Hawks). A poet once wrote, “Reading a poem in translation… is like kissing a woman through a veil;” yet I have hope that the translated version of the poems, which I originally wrote in Korean, may strike a cord in the hearts of readers around the world, and that the verses may go beyond the limitations of one...
Korean Literature in Spain
Korean literature has been gaining increasing visibility in Spain in recent years. To my understanding, this can be attributed to three factors: the presence and hard work of the Korea Literature Translation Institute; the efforts made by the Spanish editorial Verbum, directed since 1990 by Pío Serrano, a champion of Korean literature; and, above all, the frequent visits to my country and others in Europe (Italy and Germany) made by the Korean poet Ko Un. Ko has visited universities in Spain, such as those in Salamanca and Málaga (the work of Professor Kim Hye-jeoung at the University of Salamanca, in...
The Scalding Taste of Solitude During the Berlin Residency Program
On June 2, I boarded a flight for Frankfurt, Germany. I travel frequently but I had never lived away from home for as long as three months. The apartment I stayed in was a quiet, spacious studio with a lot of east-facing windows that made it difficult to sleep in. Located in a residential neighborhood in southwestern Berlin, the surrounding area felt warm and peopled, and I liked the fact that Kneipes dotted the chestnut tree-lined streets. Berlin is the most international city in Germany with plenty of tourists and an open atmosphere. Near the subway station that was a...
Korean Literature Events in Sweden Engage Scandinavian Audiences
The Korean literature events took place in Stockholm, Sweden, from June 14th to 18th, 2010. Yoon Bu-han, head of Strategic Planning Department at the LTI Korea, Lee Yoomi, also from LTI Korea, and novelist Kim Young-ha attended a Korean literature reading in Finland immediately before the event, and traveled to Sweden from there. Novelist Yi Mun-yol and I left for Sweden from Seoul in the morning of the 13th. We unpacked at a bucolic four-star hotel and went down to the lobby to find our interpreter Choi Sun-Kyoung waiting for us in the lobby. I returned to the room after...
In Praise of Translators
Throughout the world, numerous PR teams are actively seeking the best possible brands for their countries and cultures. Both Korea and my own country, the Czech Republic, are no exceptions. But is this really something that can so swiftly and easily be changed as these wizards of spin want? What really makes for a “good branding” of countries, nations, and their people? Is it the economic success of their leading companies and their iconic products in a world now ruled by technology and celebrity, or is it something else? Being somewhat old-fashioned, I still feel that a country’s brand is...

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