Hyun Ki-Young (Aunt Suni, now republished) goes up on the Wiki

KTLIT LogoHyun Ki-young is a little-known Korean author, but with luck that is about to change. He’s been published once before, a book named Aunt Suni that is in contention for the worst translation from Korean to English in the last decade. Luckily, among the 15 books that Asia Publishers are putting out in bilingual form, although it’s name is NOT Aunt Suni, it is Sun-i Samch’on, which actually translates to “Uncle Suni,” which confuses me a bit.

Anyway, with Hyun’s increasing profile, I thought it was time to put him on the Wikipedia, and so here he is, and it looks a bit like this:


Hyun Ki-young

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Hyun.
Hyun, Ki-young
Born January 16, 1941
Occupation Novelist
Language Korean
Nationality South Korean
Ethnicity Korean
Hyun Ki-young
Hangul 현기영



Hyun, Ki-young was born on Jeju Island in 1941 and graduated from Seoul National University. He has served as the Managing Director of the National Literary Writers Association (2000-1) and as the President of the Korean Arts & Culture Foundation (2003). [1]. Hyun was also the director of the Committee for the Investigation of the April 3rd Jeju Uprising as well as the President of the Jeju Institute for the Investigation of Social Problems.[2]


Hyun is best known in English for his story Aunt Suni, which was released 2010 and panned for its poor translation.[3] The story has since been retranslated as “Sun-I Samch’on” in a bilingual (English and Korean) volume. The story was the first ever written about the Jeju massacre, and shortly after it was released in 1978 in a collection of stories, Hyun was arrested and tortured for three days. The government claimed that this was because he had been at a protest, but as he was released he was warned against ever writing about the massacre again, which made the real reason for his arrest apparent.[4]


Hyun is extremely well known in Korea having won the 5th Sin Dong-yeop Creative Works prize in 1986, the Manhae Prize in 1990, and the Oh Yeong-su Literary Prize in 1994, [5] as well as the 1999 Hankook Ilbo Literature Prize.[6]

Partial list of Korean publications

A Crying Bird on the Border (1983)
Windy Island (1989)
The Last Horse Herder (1994)
A Spoon on the Earth (1999)


List of English publications

Aunt Suni (2010)
Sun-i Samch’on (2012)


  1. ^ Aunt Suni, p. 6-7
  2. ^ 현기영 Hyun, Ki-young, Changbi Publishers. (Changbi has destroyed this link)
  3. ^ Hatred, Rage, and Aunt Suni, Korean Translated Literature, 6/21/09,http://www.ktlit.com/uncategorized/hatred-rage-and-aunt-suni
  4. ^ ‘Sun-i Samch’on’ revisited for the first time, Jeju Weekly, Thursday, October 25, 2012, 14:42:12,http://www.jejuweekly.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=2813
  5. ^ Aunt Suni, p. 6
  6. ^ 현기영 Hyun, Ki-young, Changbi Publishers.

External links

Review of Aunt Suni

4 thoughts on “Hyun Ki-Young (Aunt Suni, now republished) goes up on the Wiki

  1. Apparently in Jeju, samchon refers to any relatively distant relative of either gender, not “one’s fathers (unmarried) brothers) as in standard Korean. No idea why they didn’t even try to translate it. Some translators do have a tendency to leave certain words in the original (seonsaengnim, onni, etc., and even “imma” in one book I’ve seen) but not translating the title of a book is probably not a great idea.

  2. Saying that the title is not:

    “Aunt Suni, it is Sun-i Samch’on” is pedantic, and will only discourage readers.

    Moreover, by that standard, the title of the famous book by Turgeneve is

    “Отцы и дети” Otsy i deti meaning Fathers and children and not Fathers and Sons.

    The purpose of translations for broad audiences is to make a book accessible and readable, not to be hyper-literal.

  3. Drspan – Thanks for that info, having only been to Jeju a couple of times I had no idea that was the case

    Charles (the other) – Of course you are right. It’s a good idea (a new translation) that then suffers the death of a score of cuts. The cover is another terrible decision – it’s a picture of the author, which will mean absolutely nothing to a potential English language reader. And while Hyun is in pretty good shape for a guy in his early 70’s, it’s a mug that will likely only appeal to his children.^^

  4. Cover design is ESSENTIAL — you are right.

    Too often critics do not understand that a book is a product — like cereal breakfast — and that packaging matters tremendously.

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