My Impressions of the KLTI Forum in the U.S.

  • onNovember 14, 2014
  • Vol.13 Autumn 2011
  • byJung Young Moon

In order to introduce Korean literature to America, KLTI held its first-ever forum in the western part of the U.S. from April 27 to 29. I participated along with Kim Joo-young, Ch’oe Yun, and the literary critics Wu Chan-je and Kim Yonghee. KLTI Director Kim Joo-youn accompanied us in addition to three staff members, who were very helpful in organizing and managing the forum.

On April 27th the forum at UCLA began with keynote addresses by KLTI Director Kim Joo-youn and UCLA's Director of the Center for Korean Studies, Dr. John Duncan. Next, novelist Kim Joo-young made a presentation titled, “Poverty as the Raw Material of Korean Fiction and the Indomitable Spirit of the Nation,” followed by literary critic Wu Chan-je on “Looking to Prosperity from Within the Ruins: Korea in Korean literature,” novelist Ch'oe Yun on “A Tradition of Oppression: Laying the Groundwork for Individuality and Democratization,” and my own presentation, “The Current of Experimental Fiction in Korea.” Discussions followed the presentations.

On April 28th, literary critic Kim Yonghee and Professor Lee Nam of the Dodge College of Film and Media presented “Korean Literature in the Screen Age: Literature and Film, the Desire of the General Public, and Social Institutions in Korea” and “Screen Adaptations of Korean Literature and the American Market,” respectively, at the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (KCCLA). On April 29th at USC, Korean-American poet Nicky Schildkraut, Ch'oe Yun, Leonard Chang, and I participated in a poetry reading and discussion. In addition to those named above, many experts made presentations and participated in the discussions, helping make the U.S. forums a success.

Although audience participation and response differed between events, overall the first forum to introduce Korean literature to the western U.S. went well. The large audience at UCLA in particular, where the Center for Korean Studies is garnering good results, hints at the improved status of Korean literature. Through these forums, more students became interested in the literature and culture of South Korea, which will lead to more research in this field.

It seems to me that after a certain point in the 20th century, there was a loss of inner vitality and an onset of a sustained slump in American literature. I continue to read the major American literary journals, but it's hard to find innovative work. Through my French and German friends in the literati, I have also heard that European literature, which was once the world's dynamo, is in much the same state as that of the U.S. today. In contrast to American and European literature, young writers in Korean literature are changing the literary landscape with bold imagination and unique styles. I believe that it won't be long before the world appropriately recognizes the worth of Korean literature. More accessible work of several Korean writers has served as the vanguard for entering the global literature market, and if more stylized works are translated and published abroad, I believe the status of Korean literature will be further enhanced.

While I was able to see the potential for the globalization of Korean literature, I keenly feel that many obstacles still remain. First of all, it seemed that Americans with some kind of connection to Korea were more inclined to attend these events introducing Korean literature to the U.S. rather than a general audience. Second, major media outlets didn't provide any coverage of our forums. In order to raise the level of interest and acceptance of Korean literature, renowned local writers should also be invited to participate to arouse greater local interest. Also, we need to make a greater effort to get more exposure for our events in the local media and with foreign rights agents.


by Jung Young Moon

Author's Profile

Jung Young Moon graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in psychology. He made his literary debut in 1996 with the novel A Man Who Barely Exists. Among his works, Vaseline Buddha, A Most Ambiguous Sunday and Other Stories, A Chain of Dark Tales, and A Contrived World have appeared in English. He has won the Dongsuh Literary Award, the HMS (Hahn Moo-Sook) Literary Award, the Dongin Literary Award, and the Daesan Literary Award. He has participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2005. Jung is also an accomplished translator who has translated more than fifty books from English into Korean, including works by John Fowles, Raymond Carver, and Germaine Greer.