Two nights before going to the opening day of the Seoul Book Fair I had attended an event at the British Council in Seoul, in support of the London Book Fair, 2014 at which Korea will be the featured country. So I met a few people.
As I walked into SiBF, a woman from the Korean Council grabbed me and we talked briefly (I promised to check back in), but I had to push on to get something to eat, a rather scary looking but tasty chicken burrito and a coffee. I promised to return. At the coffee joint, just checking out the place that Park Bum-shin would be presenting, I noticed a line of over 50 people with plenty of time to go. So I quickly grabbed a ticket and waited.
I was able to get front-row, center, and had a great conversation with a photographer, who alarmingly took some pictures of me, who knew a bit of English and we traded our childish language. He was interested in why the Hell I was there (as usual the only foreigner in the audience), and I explained it as best as my Korean could.
Pak Bom shin walked in to the room rail thin and dressed in blue jeans and a casual coat with the sleeves rolled up (as all creative people do!). He sported a pimp’s pinkie ring and confident attitude. He worked the room like an expert, talking to people, pointing them out and chatting casually. He then sat down, for about 15 seconds during the introductions, and quickly popped out of his seat and worked the room like a slightly less mobile Steve Jobs (well, the non-dead Steve Jobs anyway). He welcomed the crowd, talked a little about the location, mentioned that the current environment was quite different due to the evolution of the digital world, and then immediately began to talk about things I couldn’t possibly understand due to my cruddy Korean.
The only work I know of Park’s that is available is The Trap, which can be found in The Snowy Road and other Korean Stories.
And, yeah, you can be darn sure I had him autograph it, though when I said my name was 찰스 몽고메리 he looked at me like I was a banana-wielding monkey who had unexpectedly dropped from the ceiling. I shortened it to 찰몽 and all was good in the hood.^^
Still, it was grand, and I got him to autograph a copy of “The Trap.”
Then, on the way out I ran into the awesome Marzena Stefanska (who can be found on Facebook here, and you should go befriend her immediately) who is a force for Korean literature translation and publication in Poland and the world.^^ She’s in town to accept an award, which I’ll post about tomorrow.
We talked about some of the current obstacles to translation: Expense, small readership, gate-keeping, professional jealousy and a number of other things. It is always good to have a conversation with someone who agrees with you.^^
This all concluded with a chat with LTI Korea employee and consecutive interpreter extraordinaire Helen Choi, who will be on Arirang Radio this Sunday at 7 (KST) discussing translation, literature, and the meaning of life. Check it out at Catch The Wave!