Kim Yeonsu Reaches Japanese Shores: World’s End Girlfriend by Kim Yeonsu

  • onApril 20, 2015
  • Vol.27 Spring 2015
  • byKim Seung-bok
世界の果て、彼女 (World’s End Girlfriend)
Tr. Oh Young A

World’s End Girlfriend, Kim Yeonsu’s collection of short stories published in Korea in 2009, was translated and published in Japan in March 2014. This book was chosen as the first of Kim’s works from his 20-year-long career to be introduced in Japan because, unlike his other works, the backgrounds and characters of these stories are not set in any particular country, ethnicity, or race. The book depicts universal themes through characters one could come across anywhere, characters who agonize over and are hurt by problems that could happen to anyone.

Kim’s characters share a common trait in that they do not remember who or where they are: a youngster who chases after a dream; an old-timer who reflects on a past when, under the pretext of national pride, human dignity was trampled underfoot; a girl who cannot accept her growth into maturity, and a youth who tries running away from family and work but cannot. The seven short stories here are full of humor, depth and hope, in a style typical of Kim.

CUON invited Kim to Japan to meet and converse with Keiichiro Hirano, a writer with whom he has been interacting for more than a decade, at Books Kinokuniya. World’s End Girlfriend was met with high praise: from readers who came in contact with Korean literature for the first time; from loyal fans who had been waiting; and, above all, from Keiichiro Hirano who read for the first time the work of a friend he had known for several years (only less than 10 Korean literature is being translated and published in Japan).

“He’s a friend who’s always a pleasure to meet. I’ve shared many conversations with him and have heard his singing, but I’ve always regretted being unable to read his works. Only now could I step into his world or, you could say, see him in his naked flesh. Many of my works have been translated into Korean, so I always felt at a disadvantage since he had seen me naked, but now we’re even. Just like I thought, he has a well-toned body.”

Thanks to this event, World’s End Girlfriend was featured not only in the Yomiuri Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun but also in Japanese broadcast media that focus on literature. Kim Yeonsu is now, perhaps, the most well-known Korean writer in Japan.

Kim debuted as a poet but, unfortunately, a collection of his poetry has yet to be published in Korea or elsewhere. He told me he still writes poetry. After the event at Books Kinokuniya was over, Kim said he felt like getting a drink at a jazz bar. We stepped into a bar where Bach was playing. Kim chugged down his beer, remarking that beer wasn’t such a bad accompaniment to classical music. The shyness he displayed while facing the audience with his book (or, should I say, his naked body,) seemed to dissolve in the liquor, and he became even more cheerful than the characters in his stories. I was delighted to have met that rare type of writer, one whose writing and personality are equally charming. 


by Kim Seung-bok

Author's Profile

Kim Yeonsu is a novelist. Kim debuted in 1993 by publishing a poem in Writer’s World. He published the novels Walking While Pointing to the MaskGoodbye Mr. Yi Sang, Route 7The Night Is Singing, and Wonderboy and the short story collections I Am a Ghost WriterTwenty, and World's End Girlfriend. Kim has received a number of literary awards, including the Daesan Literary Award and Yi Sang Literary Award.