“One Hundred Years of Modern Korean Literature” at Boston University – 1

I have hesitated to start a “blog” section because I was afraid I will end up saying something egregiously irrelevant. Nonetheless, I think this page would be the most appropriate place to jot down and share my thoughts and life events that are relevant to my research interest.

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This morning, I set out to Boston University to check out a Classical Chinese workshop offered by a professor from Keio University. However, when I got to the room I thought was going to be the classroom, I didn’t see anyone at all. I tried to find a room number for the workshop on the web but couldn’t, so I rode my bicycle back to Tufts. After I arrived at Tufts and had lunch, I found out Boston University was hosting a conference on modern Korean literature. Most of the topics that were being presented today were also the topics I’ve been thinking or curious about, so I took a cab and arrived at Boston University again.

Unfortunately, presentations on Zainichi literature, one of the topics I’ve become interested in, were almost over. But the rest of the presentations were still thought-provoking.  Some of the thoughts I had:

1.

I shared this one in public, but I think there was a language barrier between professor Hatano Setsuko (University of Niigata Prefecture) and me that the professor didn’t fully grasp my question. (Obviously, I need to practice how to express theoretical concepts in Korean.) Professor Hatano pointed out how Koreans stopped using Chinese characters, and how that is leading the Korean language to “move away” from Chinese characters.  Unlike Japanese, who uses Chinese characters with Kana, Koreans no longer perceive words that are derived from Chinese characters in the context of the original characters because they only use Hangeul. In other words, words that are based on Chinese characters are Koreanized.

And this made me wonder what significance does “moving away” really have. The Korean language indeed is moving away from Chinese characters, and as a person who also knows the Japanese language, I fully agree with the comparison the professor made. However,  even though Chinese characters are so Koreanized that they are no longer visible in Korean texts, aren’t they still present in the Korean language as a background, registered in Korean people’s subconsciousness? So, instead of understanding the replacement of Chinese characters as “moving away” from them, shouldn’t we think of it as a furtive mode of embodying Chinese characters in our consciousness? Moreover, erasing Chinese characters from the surface while letting them thrive in the background allows them to haunt the Korean language and Koreans’ linguistic consciousness. Indeed, learning Chinese characters has become the national and/or educational issue in South Korea on a regular basis. For example, the generation above me didn’t learn Chinese characters in school, but my generation learned Chinese characters (although once or twice a week). Ten years later, around three years ago, the government suggested including Chinese characters in the Korean language textbooks for elementary students, which stirred the Korean public. Therefore, the ghost of “Chinese characters” have shown up and are always ready to show up, and they inevitably will show up again.

That being said, I am wondering what significance Mujeong (the first Korean novel written only in Korean characters, which was the presentation topic of professor Hatano) has for Korean literature under this context.

 

2.

Professor Immanuel Kim (SUNY Binghamton)’s exposition of South Korea’s perception of North Korea was interesting. However, I still wondered what “understanding North Korean literature” precisely means. Readers from South Korea and the United States, as he said, have perceived North Korean literature through an ideological lens. So one obvious aspect of “understanding” would be freeing oneself from this lens as much as possible. What was vague to me was the object we were trying to understand is. Are we simply trying to get rid of our “South Korean” perception of them (and thus understand North Korean literature as it is influenced by the North Korean ideology), or are we trying to be cautious of assuming any type of ideology in our understanding, whether it be North or South? Of course, perceiving any material entirely free from an ideology is impossible, but I wonder if this is the direction we are imagining when we say “understanding North Korean literature.” I didn’t ask the question because the person who asked a question before me asked a similar question…I think.

After the conference, I tried to join the professors and researchers to have a dinner and talk more about their projects. Unfortunately, unlike Allston Asian restaurants I had imagined, the restaurant was a lot fancier than I thought. Because the conference had reserved a small room for the exact number of people, I had to come back home. I was planning to squeeze a chair in and join the conversation if it was a typical Allston Korean restaurant, but oh well.

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Translation / Creative Works

Professional History

Photographer | Literary Coterie GLO (문예집단 글로) (January 2018 – August 2018)

  • The literary coterie GLO seasonally publishes original works in Korean. 
  • Link to GLO

Editor-in-Chief | Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature (December 2016 – present)

  • First edition: October 2017
  • I am organizing a literary translation journal for contemporary Korean literature. The mission of the journal is to introduce new, emerging, and established Korean writers, poets, and critics to the English-speaking audience. In addition, we try to open up space where the readers can start and engage in the dialogue about contemporary Korean literature.  With the help of volunteer translators, editors, and communicators, I aim to publish the first edition in fall 2017.
  • Link to Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature

Translator / Proofreader | Humans of Seoul (December 2015 – present)

  • Also in charge of Tumblr page
  • sub-project: Learning Korean with Humans of Seoul
  • Inspired by Humans of New York, Humans of Seoul [HoS] shares portraits and life stories of people in Seoul. HoS has more than 120,000 subscribers on Facebook and yet more subscribers on Tumblr and Instagram. I work with other translators in a team to provide a precise translation of the interviews. In addition, as a regular member, I take part in making an administrative decision like hiring new translators.
  • Link to Humans of Seoul Facebook Page (main platform of Humans of Seoul)

Translator | Ahn Translation (November 2015 – January 2018)

  • I translated and introduced modern Korean poems that were written in the 20th century and early 21st century. From January 2016 to July 2017, people from 83 different countries and territories have visited my blog.
  • Link to Ahn Translation

Translator | ILDA South Korean Feminist Journal (January 2017 – January 2018)

  • I translated articles for a non-profit feminist journal that started in 2003 in South Korea. The magazine deals with various issues of feminism from news related to feminist activism to personal anecdotes about living as a woman in South Korea.
  • Korean main page | English blog

 

Publications and Works

Translation of “Nongae” 

  • Poet: Byun Yeongro
  • For Bucheon City of Literature’s official use (2018~)

Translation of “In the Glass Coffin” in Language and Literature for the IB MYP 2 

  • Poet: Kim Myeong-sun | Author: Zara Kaiserimam
  • My translation of “In the Glass Coffin” is featured in a textbook for International Baccalaureate students.
  • Published in February 2018

Translation of Time to Read Poems, the Documentary

  • Director: Soo Jung Lee
  • The documentary Time to Read Poems was screened at Busan International Film Festival, one of the biggest movie festivals in the Asian continent. In the documentary, people in different professions and age talk about their economic, emotional, gender, and existential struggles. The interviewees then share their favorite poems or poems of their own. I translated the entire documentary from Korean to English, including seven contemporary Korean poems.
  • Released on October 6, 2016
  • Daum Movie (In Korean)