Therefore, We Write: Writing Club by Kang Young-sook

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.11 Spring 2011
  • byJang Sungkyu
Writing Club

Since 2006 with the publication of Rina, Kang Young-sook has held a prominent role in the Korean literary world. In her book, Kang sharply delineates the oppressed minority in the partitioned countries of a largely capitalistic world through a North Korean that continues to live the life of a refugee. The novel reflects the transnational world we live in today and outstandingly configures the literary ethics of such times. Kang has covered the major literary topics of the 21st century in Korea such as gender, the partition of Korea, capitalistic systems, and individual ethics.

Kang’s Writing Club, published in 2010, also questions literary ethics but from a different angle than Rina. The novel chiefly explores the meaning of writing in a time where everybody can write and publish their work through various mediums. Kim and her daughter run a writing club in their neighborhood. They are not professional writers but through constant writing they discover a zest for life. The writing pieces are simple, such as ordinary cooking recipes, but for Kim and her daughter as well as the neighborhood housewives that have joined the writing club, writing in itself authenticates their existence. They write in truth about their experiences and they write with love, which enables them to verify their identity through their writing.

Kang’s Writing Club reveals that writing is no longer limited to the few literary elite. The proliferation of writing through blogs, homepages, and novel networks is already a public phenomenon. The popularization of published writing proves that the traditional sense of the writer has been dismantled, as they are no longer the main agents of writing.

The writing of the average individual exemplified in Writing Club may not be a literary feat but holds value in that it narrates the individual’s concrete experiences and identity. Kang’s Writing Club reflects the changing nature of the writing environment and the public’s desire to write in a time where anyone and everyone can be a writer. Her book can be highly commended for illustrating the fact that true writing does not comes from technical perfection but through the determination to confirm one’s identity through the practice of writing. 

Author's Profile

Kang Young-sook (b. 1967) is the author of three novels, Rina (2006), The Writing Club (2010), and Sad and Delightful Teletubby Girl (2013), and five short story collections, including Shaken (2002) and Gray Literature (2016). Rina was published in English by Dalkey Archive Press in 2015 and The Writing Club in Japanese by Gendaikikakushitsu in 2017. Kang participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2009 and the Daesan-Berkeley Writer-in-Residence Program in 2014.