Writers' Notes

In Search of Lost Curiosity
That’s right—I had left. I’d forgotten it for a little while. My journey, for what did you lead me here? I asked, and then forgot, once again, that I was on a journey. And I felt sad that even though my body had been brought to a completely different place, my spirit hadn’t. My journey, won’t you bring my spirit to this new place, too? I don’t remember exactly when, but as I got older, something left me—curiosity about the world, about life, about people. I’d always thought such symptoms were fatal for a writer. Changes in seasons, beautiful things,...
Found in Translation
When people tell me that Koreans are loud, dishonest, aggressive, and too competitive, I do not yell at them, lie to them, punch them, or try to beat them. I nod calmly then I tell them that Koreans are also funny, brilliant, truthful, direct, smart, romantic, generous, truthful, sensitive, and compassionate. Of course, I always mention that Koreans are also very good-looking. By 2010, the world outside of South Korea knows of her accomplishments. Koreans can skate, cook, play classical music, sing opera, golf, act, design buildings, paint, produce films and soap operas, create high fashion, and make great cars,...
¡Hola!, Mexico!
If I return to Mexico, it will be not because of Mexican tacos, nor will it be because of the lure of the wall murals by Diego Rivera and his fellow Mexican muralists. Of course, I still long for that taste, and try to imitate guacamole by adding the zest of a lemon to an avocado; and when I close my eyes I can picture Jose Clemente Orozco’s mural of the bride with burning eyes, and this image still brings my heart to a stop. Between November 23 and December 4, I participated in a 12-day tour that included a...
The Past and Present of Korean Literature
Korean literature has a long history, stretching over many centuries. While the influence of the Chinese writing system was monumental, and only Chinese characters were used in the hyangchal system before hangeul was finally invented, there has always been a clearly recognizable Korean quality to the texts, be they poems or prose. In my view, this specific Korean quality has on the one hand been formed by the geographical intensity of the peninsula, with the sea surrounding it on three sides and the mountain ridges rising from all sides being the most striking aspects, and on the other by the...
The “Culture of Relationships” Between Korea and China
Without fail, books on China published in Korea mention the importance of relationships in China. Such books state that China is governed not by laws and rational procedures, but by relationships, and advise that before doing anything in China, you should first establish good relationships with people. The advice isn’t entirely wrong. However, is there any place in the world where relationships aren’t important? So often, things that could have worked out don’t work out because of relationship problems, and vice versa, regardless of where you are. Thus, the advice is seriously flawed, for it could sound as though you...
Books Warming Up Wintry Nights in Sweden
The most difficult part of getting ready for a trip is choosing which books to take. What kind of books, and how many? It’s always a dilemma. I’ve heard of someone who takes seven books on a week-long trip, and 30 on a month-long trip. I can see why. I wouldn’t feel at ease without that many, at least. Not having books to read on the train, or at the airport during a flight delay — just thinking about it makes me feel bored. I, too, was like that person. From Dostoevsky to Nick Hornby, I had to stuff my...
Creating a Place for Myself
It has been 28 years since I chose to write as my occupation. My parents divorced while I was in elementary school. During junior high I lost my mental balance and was no longer able to go to school; at 15 I was expelled from high school. Ever since I was young I’ve liked reading books and writing, so I decided to make writing my work. At 18, I made my debut as a playwright with “To My Friend in the Water,” and after composing 10 plays, began to write novels. In 1997, when I was 28, I received the...
Pride as an Ethnic Korean in China
Without pride in his/her people, a writer will never be regarded by them as a great writer, and a people that has no pride in its members will soon disappear from the stage of history. This has been true in the past and is equally true today. Where I live, in the northern Jiandao region of China, bordering North Korea to the south and Russia to the northeast, there are memorial stones in every village, on every hill. They serve as a final resting place for the Korean people who settled down in northern Jiandao. Ninety-eight percent of anti-Japanese fighters...
Finding the Author’s Spirit
I am a third-generation Korean born in Russia. I studied in Russian schools, and used the Korean language only at home with my parents. When I decided to become a writer, I had no choice in what language to write, because the only language I knew was Russian. However, when I started my journey as an author, I faced another serious problem, a problem that every writer experiences no matter in what language they write—to find their individual style. I found myself quite well read, I developed a taste for good language, but in my first attempts to create literature...
The Burger Must Be Ordered
Between October and December of 2008, I was in Spain and Portugal participating in the Korea Literature Translation Institute Overseas Residency Program for Korean Writers. I experienced a good deal during my travels, but in this essay, I feel I must talk about how to order a burger. When traveling abroad alone, and I’m sure everybody does this, I often grab a burger. My parents ran a bakery, which in Korea, meant I ate a lot of burgers as a child. By the time I reached adulthood, I had stopped enjoying them. Even so, I gravitate toward burgers when traveling...

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