Semi-Related to Yesterday’s Post: Kim Young-ha Among Other Koreans Beloved by the French

France Surrenders to the Korean Wave

An interesting article about how Korean literature is affecting France. Particularly interesting to me because of it’s inclusion of Kim Young-ha. The article notes that:

Korean authors who are well-known in France, including Hwang Sok-yong, Lee Seung-woo, Shin Kyung-suk and Kim Young-ha participated at the forum

Kim, however,  gets short shrift in the article compared to the other authors. This makes some sense given that the Korea Herald is a repository of traditional attitudes towards literature, and Kim is a bit more international in style and plot.

In fact, I’ve had conversations on the Gypsy Scholar’s website about Kim’s influences, particularly with respect to “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself,” with a reader who loathed the parts of Kim’s style that the French might particularly like:

I sympathize with his desire to get beyond the narratives of the nation – whether partition literature, nationalist or otherwise. But this work struck me as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, transparently derivative (to the point of constituting plagiarism, albeit not in the literal sense)of themes and examples of modernist European “benchmarks” and altogether unsatisfying.

There is something under all that admirable rage, and that is the Kim was certainly consciously approaching Western styles and philosophy in Destroy Myself, but I’m willing to give a lot more credit than the angered commenter. ^^

My response was:

I get what you are saying about “Destroy Myself,” in some ways. It is clearly the work of a young writer and it is extremely mannered (if that is the right word), in that it is clearly working from a literary checklist. Despite that, I found it refreshing because it was the first complete break from pundan munhak I came across. I think that it will be seen, in retrospect, as a ground-breaking translation. Not least because it actually (gasp!) sold copies internationally and was quite popular in Europe – which, in your argument, could be points against, because most of the international readers were no doubt wearing berets cocked at a jaunty angle and smoking Galouisies in cigarette holders whilst sipping cappuccinos. Not a pretty picture, I admit.

Still, France loves Kim for what he does, and that’s a good thing. And France loves the other authors (Yi Sang is a great example of another Korean author who, many decades ago, adopted European style to great effect) as well. It’s an extension of the brand, which is good.

Finally, the article takes a horrible stab at making this an extension of Hallyu, “This “Korean wave” in France, especially in the literature arena, was actually detected several years ago.” But that is also par for the course.