A roundtable titled Korean literature sees opening for growth was held just before New Year’s day in the downtown offices of the Korea Times. I was lucky enough to sit down with two brilliant commenters on Korean literature in translation. First was Brother Anthony of Taize, professor and translator extraordinaire, known for his work with Ku Sang, Ko Un, and tea.^^ Second was Jung Ha-yun, a translator and Ewha Womans University professor. Third, was me (as you can see, I dressed up for the occassion^^).
It might be worth it to read the article before returning here, because what I have to say is mainly notes. So, read it here.
It is worth saying, and scattered there throughout, that one of the things that professors Jung Ha-yun and Anthony mentioned, that I had never formally thought about, was that part of the problem is the general lack of reading culture in Korea (which reads a shockingly low 26 minutes a day, or something along those lines). Each dynasty wiped out the work of the last, the literature was originally written in a foreign language (Hanja), writers was oppressed by colonialism, there was no long successive history of literature, after the war many writers were killed, or separated to (what turned out to be) the wrong side of Korea and ended up dead of firmly controlled by the governments.
And those are just the historical problems. There is also little, and not so very well done, import of foreign literature, so Koreans rarely read good translated literature. Differences in writing, editing and publishing style conspire to make it difficult for works to be accessible in translation, and this all goes on top of the cultural differences that make translations difficult in general.
Sounds bad, right?
Well, we have hope as Jung Ha-yun, a translator and Ewha Womans University professor said, noting during a recent roundtable discussion at The Korea Times office in downtown Seoul. “It’s all about where we go from here.”
Read the rest, and see where we locate the hope!