[Web Exclusive] Interview with Kim Haengsook: Living through One Hundred Years at Once

  • onSeptember 1, 2019
  • Vol.45 Autumn 2019
  • byKim Haengsook


KLN: How do you feel about participating in the Göteborg Book Fair 2019?

Kim: I travelled to Sweden before at the invitation of literary magazine 10TAL. But this is my first visit to Göteborg. This encounter with new readers and foreign languages will be an adventure for my poetry. I feel excited about discovering another linguistic texture. 


KLN: The five poems you’ve chosen for the Göteborg Book Fair 2019 all explore the notion of time. What is the overriding idea or image in them?

Kim: My topic for discussion is “In Human Time.” When I first got this topic, I was reminded of the 2014 Seoul International Writers’ Festival. At that event, I mistakenly said “Welcome to the 1914 Seoul International Writers’ Festival!” three times. One of the participating writers told me later that he felt as if he were staying in a hotel from a hundred years before. Humans can only exist in the present. However, I feel as if we could live through a hundred years at any given time because every moment is loaded with ancient memories. In Korea, the year 2014 was disrupted by many unforeseen moments, which reminded us of the division of the Korean peninsula, ideological conflict, colonization and Japanophilism. I realized that in the current era, I was living through a hundred years at once. This ‘time’ is not just my own but a collective one. In fact, there are many layers to this collective time, and Korea undergoes conflict among such layers—perhaps more acutely than any other country. My recent poetry collection, 1914, explores the theme of temporal communities (based on the ideas born out of my mistake at the Seoul International Writers’ Festival). I look forward to discussing this topic further at the book fair.


English subtitles translated by Helen Cho