Yet More on Kim Young-ha and the Choi Go-eun Debacle.

The Dong-a Ilbo has an interesting article this morning. It begins with the falsehood that Kim Young-ha is retiring from writing entirely, which is not something I have seen or understand to be true. But it also goes on to talk a little bit more about the background of the disagreement and if what it says is true, Kim comes off (as I had suspected here yesterday) as  at least reasonable (check out the risible comment by Special Affairs Minister Lee Jae-oh). The statement that likely set the fight off was Kim’s somewhat tone-deaf, ““Choi was a talented writer and wasn’t incompetent, but died after stubbornly and irresponsibly trying to survive by banking on her self-esteem.”

This still seems to be too much of a fight for the disagreement involved, but when the internet gets involved in Korea, any level of escalation becomes possible.

Here is the nearly complete text of the article:

Kim Young-ha (김영하)

Kim Young-ha (김영하)

His declaration was triggered by the progressive daily Hankyoreh’s report that suggested that screenwriter Choi Go-eun, who died at age 32 on Jan. 28, starved to death. Skeptics doubted the cause of death, with one saying, “How can a young person starve to death (in this modern affluent society)?” Others, however, say Choi was “socially murdered.” A debate has flared up among writers and literary critics over who should provide artists with food and other necessities for living. Kim incurred harsh criticism by saying an artist himself or herself should be responsible, which led him to announce his retirement from writing.

Kim was a professor at Korea National University of Arts when Choi was a student there. Kim claimed that Choi did not starve to death, saying, “I was surprised to find that many people really believe Choi starved to death,” adding, “I heard from Choi’s acquaintances who managed her funeral that the cause of death was not malnutrition, but hyperthyroidism and a seizure resulting from related complications.” Kim added, “Choi was a talented writer and wasn’t incompetent, but died after stubbornly and irresponsibly trying to survive by banking on her self-esteem.”

Amid conflicting interpretations of the cause of Choi’s death, reactions by certain Cabinet ministers and lawmakers are regrettable. Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choung Byoung-gug overreacted by promising to improve government treatment and benefits for artists. Quoting a note Choi reportedly left, Special Affairs Minister Lee Jae-oh posted a condolatory note on his blog saying, “Are you (Choi) suffering from hunger in heaven?” Online news sites are perplexed, however. Hankyoreh, which broke the news on Choi’s death, reported that she left a memo asking for “leftover rice” while dying. Her memo that was belatedly made public contained no such expression, however.

Writers fight lies and injustice. One can become a writer when he or she doubts even matters that ordinary people instantly believe to be true or accurate. Kim said, “Making Choi a martyr for art and considering her as an irresponsible artist who didn`t even bother to get a part-time job to earn a living are both extremes that we all should refrain from,” adding, “The belief that one can be forgiven for whatever he or she says just because he or she is an underprivileged person or outsider is a dangerous way of thinking.” It is rare to find a writer like Kim who is courageous enough to criticize irresponsible Web users.

2 thoughts on “Yet More on Kim Young-ha and the Choi Go-eun Debacle.

  1. He’s always struck me as being just a tiny bit full of himself (even his initial post on his former student was, basically, a long rant about himself… the implicit self-promotion within it was grating to say the least) so maybe getting off the Internet is a good idea for him.

  2. Dear In Passing,

    As I haven’t seen the original statement in full (and it would take me along time to translate it semi-inaccurately?^^) I can’t speak to its tone. If you say its tone was self-promotional, however, I’m happy to trust you on that. One of Kim’s unusual skills, and one of the reasons he is probably the most successful translated Korean author at this moment, is in promotion. But obviously, there was something about this particular set of communications that set the net off. Given the kind of violent reaction that the Korean net often has, I’d say retreat was the wise move.

    What I can also say is that I have met Kim twice and he struck me as quite modest, but also sensibly ambitious. I found it a charming combination. Also, I really like his work. I certainly hope to see him get back on the web at some point, but as long as his work continues, I’m not overly concerned about it.

    Perhaps this is just one of those “lesson learned” situations?

    Anyway, thanks for dropping by…

    In any ca

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