Shin Kyoung-sook ruminates on foreign readers & visits the Brisbane Writers Festival

Shin Kyung-sook

Shin Kyung-sook

An  article in the Korea Times in which Shin Kyoung-sook says that foreign readers are inspiring her to write more:

“I didn’t think of foreign readers until my book was printed in English. But now after meeting my fans in other countries, I feel foreign readers have given me a strong energy for my next works,” Shin said at a press conference on Monday.

This is a bit of a change from things she has previously said, in which she kind of minimized the role of foreign readers, or said that she wanted to write essentially “Korean” things. This may have to do with her smashing success, in two ways. First, after the tour she may actually be energized enough to simple mean it!^^  Second, she might now have become enough of a domestic hero to admit an overseas focus – where some previous authors have received domestic criticism for being too “international.”

If she is at all concerned about the latter problem, she does a brilliant job of inoculating herself against the possible charge:

The author realized that Korean literature seems to be fresh to other countries and its status is bigger than we think. “They seem to be looking for an alternative in humanity and community spirit which is richly expressed in Korean literature,” she said.

“I’ve heard the power of literature has dwindled in Korea over the last 10 years. But when I was outside, I felt the power of Korean literature is very dynamic and powerful. Many are interested in it.”

Either way, or neither way if I am speculating well out of my league, it’s good news, because another hit is needed to begin to cement her position as a canonical author, and that’s what Korea needs to get it’s foot in the door of international literature.

And, if you happen to be in Brisbane next week:

Shin will participate in the Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) from Sept. 7 to 11 in Australia as the only Korean author invited.
BWF is introducing her as “Korea’s national living treasure” and “one of South Korea’s most widely read and acclaimed novelists.”

So, if you’re in Brisbane, drop by and check her out – there is more information at the BWF website.

3 thoughts on “Shin Kyoung-sook ruminates on foreign readers & visits the Brisbane Writers Festival

  1. Interesting.

    Talk more about your point:

    ” some previous authors have received domestic criticism for being too “international.”

    What does this mean?

    Rooted in some racist myth like Japanese have that they are a divine race?

    In light of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Racine, Shakespeare, Dante, why do they believe that being internationally well-regarded is bad?

  2. Charles,

    It’s complicated, but one of the reasons is that Korean literature since 1905 or so has been national – on purpose and in the service of nation-building. Obviously there have been some disagreements (a civil war or so) about what the result should be, but Korean fiction has been intensely inward-looking with an eye to create a better Korea. The new “international” authors are not interested in that inwardness, and many old-timers dislike that. Kim Young-ha is a great example of someone who has received heat inside Korea for his internationality. It’s not just about Korea though, as I have also heard Koreans level this complaint against Murakami (Japanese do as well). This reason is sort of like, “we need to get our own things figured out, why do you care about the outside world.” That is, of course a massive oversimplication and it is partly balanced out (“yin-ed?” “yang-ed”) by the Korea desire to be recognized overseas. But again, look at what has been translated in the past, and it has been a literature of “take us exactly as we are, and as we say we are.” So there’s some internal tension there.

    Then there are those who see ‘catering’ to the English world as a continued symptom of the hegemonic relationships that Korea has with the US, and has historically been forced to have with other nations.

    There’s a ton more to it than that, but you’d have to ask a Korean.^^ All I know is what Koreans tell me at conferences, and these are the two things that have come up in those conversations.

  3. Thanks.

    Is this true only for literary fiction authors, or also for genre writers?

    Do mystery writers or science fiction writers also share those views?

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