[Web Exclusive] KLN at TEN: Interviews with Poets
- onOctober 2, 2018
- Vol.41 Autumn 2018
- byKorean Literature Now
KLN: How do you feel about being in the special issue of KLN?
Shin: In the past ten years of post-fascism here in Korea, I’ve always tried to represent the voices of the few, of those in pain in whichever way. I guess someone saw that and rated it positively. It’s a responsibility for me to continue in that artistic direction. I feel it’s my duty. I don’t think that my poetry is representative of young poets in Korea today. But I guess someone thought I was doing meaningful work in showing Korea’s specific situation and historical context. It’s nice to be appreciated that way. It’s a work I’ll be continuing in the future.
KLN: What do you think distinguishes Korean literature from that of other countries?
Shin: Korean literature is written in Korean. The Korean language has weathered a lot of foreign invasions, including the Japanese occupation, and still managed to keep its uniqueness, but on the other hand that creates an obstacle in itself. It’s the biggest problem that Korean literature and Korean poets face, how to navigate that transition from individuality to universality.
In my poetry I use dialect, so I’m interested in digging up more of those words that have a history, to preserve and protect them. Beyond language, then you have to consider the quirks of Korean society. We may have advanced economically, but mentally and politically there’s regression, then there’s generational conflict, the North-South division, women’s issues, all sorts of very tense conflict. On the other hand it gives us poets, it gives writers something to write about. I would say the sheer diversity of subject matter, that right there is a distinguishing point of Korean literature.
KLN: Do you think Korean literature, or literature in general, should have a social responsibility?
Song: In life we all need each other’s help, I owe you, you owe me. Every day you need to eat, you need to sleep, you need to go to work, and all those countless things have been produced by somebody. Literature is not a necessity in that sense but it does produce food for the spirit, for the soul. So literature does have a responsibility, a responsibility to create better food for the soul. Just as people in other walks of life do their best, writers should do their best to create society’s food for the soul.
In a certain sense I see literature as another form of parliament or government. Actual government or parliament is based on preexisting law, but literature has more freedom to explore what society should aim for, to listen to what people want and to make that known. In that sense I think literature serves a role not unlike parliament or government.