Please look after mom (and her food): an interview with Kyung-Sook Shin

Shin Kyung-sook

Shin Kyung-sook from FineDINING LOVERS

A great interview with Shin Kyung-sook, by  from the Fine Dining Lovers website.

Some parts of it are funny, even from a translation perspective as when the interviewer notes:

she speaks no English: she looks at me with interest and responds to my questions quickly, in a curious language full of melodic sounds, and often laughs while talking. Of course, I have to wait for the interpreter to answer back before I can share the laugh. Except that when the translation arrives, sometimes I don’t find anything funny about them, so I wonder whether it’s my dumbfounded expression that causes the writer’s mirth.

I think we’ve all been there in a second language!

There is also some discussion of the role of food in Shin’s fiction:


Many of the novel’s gestures of love pass through food. When her unfaithful husband returns home after month, his wife shows her forgiveness by having him find food ready and waiting. And she shows her preference to her first son over her other children by preparing him exquisite ramen noodles, which her other children can only enjoy if there are any leftovers. For the mother in this book, food has a value that goes well beyond nourishment.

It’s a brief interview, but well worth checking out in its entirety for what light it sheds on Shin, food in Korean culture and literature, and its affectionate portrayal of Shin.

One thought on “Please look after mom (and her food): an interview with Kyung-Sook Shin

  1. Interesting.

    The focus on food that she mentions is rather universal.

    Everywhere I go in Africa, the custom invariably is to seek to create a social relationship over food or drink.

    Indeed, even in English the word “commensal” refers to a relationship of living together in harmony, and is derived from the Latin for sharing a table.

    And, the custom that she describes is also common to all of Korea’s neighbours: China, Japan, Russia.

    So, that part is a bit odd because what she seems to view as somehow uniquely Korean is in fact rather universal, and especially in North East Asia, and indeed all of East Asia.

    In fact, there are very few cultures in which food sharing is not a key means of social interaction.

    soooooo, I don’t feel that I have much of a sense of what food means in Korean culture, except that it means what it means in most human cultures.

    Go to Malawi where you as a guest may have to endure endless plates of a multi-course meal, as a means to demonstrate friendship.

    And, the same can be said of China.

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