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Korean Authors

 

Writer Bora Chung

A Creative and Fun Storyteller Who Mesmerized the World

 

2022.06.07

 

While Korean content – or so-called K-content – is at the center of global attention these days, K-publishing has joined the hot wave. Led by works that have won international prizes, various Korean publications are being globally recognized with rising interest and popularity. Also, Korea’s publishing industry is once again receiving much attention as Cursed Bunny (Arzak), a short-story collection written by Bora Chung, was nominated for the Booker Prize, a prestigious literary award. Author Bora Chung writes stories with the maximum charms of SF fiction using her abundant imagination and fresh topics. Following is an interview with Bora Chung, who expressed her works as “fiction that explores the border between reality and virtual reality.”

 

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ⓒArzak

 

 

Please introduce yourself to our subscribers.

 

Hello, I’m Bora Chung, and I’m a novelist, a translator, and the head of the Science Fiction Writers Union of Korea (SFWUK).

 

Your book Cursed Bunny has been at the center of global attention as it was nominated for the Booker Prize. How do you feel about the nomination, and what does it feel like to receive focused attention?

 

I still feel like I’m dreaming. But I’m very happy that I could promote Korean genre literature to the world. I didn’t even imagine that I’d be nominated for the prize. As the co-presidents of Honford Star, the publisher that published Cursed Bunny in the UK, would often make hopeful jokes such as “If Cursed Bunny wins the Booker Prize...” and “If it makes it to the final nomination...,” I first thought that they were still joking even after I saw that the book was on the list of final nominees. I’m very thankful for the heightened attention, which eventually led to increased sales, but I think it will vanish soon if another writer wins the prize. (So, I’m working really hard to sell the printed stock before the final announcement is made!)

 

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Korean and English covers of Cursed Bunny

 

 

You have been giving lectures, writing stories, and even translating. While it must be hard to multitask, how are you keeping the balance? Also, what does each mean to you, and how are you managing to write stories amidst your busy schedule?

 

I no longer give lectures as I quit school at the end of February 2022, but when I used to teach students, I read books necessary for my class, and translated Russian or English materials used for class or research into Korean. In that process, I got to translate works that I took an interest in, which made me think about writing stories. Also, as I also studied literary theories, I could organize my thoughts about writing fiction. Giving lectures, doing research, translating, and writing stories were organically connected to each other, but as I no longer teach nor do research, I think I might have more time for writing and translation.
When I translate, I learn many things as I meet complete, verified works of other writers who write much better than myself. Also, as there is a fixed amount of work, I can plan how many pages to translate per day or how many to leave for the next day. I also feel a sense of accomplishment as well. So, if I don’t feel like writing, I translate. There, I think about how I will make my story roll, and once the storyline is complete in my head to some extent, I start writing.

 

You have been mainly writing SF fiction, including Cursed Bunny, the nominee for the Booker Prize. What made you write SF fiction, and what do you think is the charm of this genre?

 

I thought that I wouldn’t be able to write SF as it is a difficult field, and I don’t have much knowledge about science. But, then, I got to watch a documentary about agriculture and the environment one day and wrote a short story titled Seed, which won the excellence prize for short- and medium-length stories at the 1st SF Award hosted by the Gwacheon National Science Museum in 2014. As I won the literary award, an “SF” literary award, I got to join the Science Fiction Writers Union of Korea (SFWUK) in 2017. So, I’m thankful for becoming an SF writer regardless of my will. I still don’t know much about science technologies or theories, but I think it is the charm of SF that you can look into the many possibilities of science which has become a part of our daily lives in a realistic, logical, and explainable way.

 

Cursed Bunny is comprised of 10 short stories. What was the message you wanted to deliver as you wrote them, and what do you prioritize the most when writing stories?

 

The title story Cursed Bunny was motivated by the trash dumpling incident. Dumplings are born ugly, and they are food made to eat with ingredients cut into small pieces with no quality issues. The victims didn’t do anything wrong, but the news went out differently, which eventually closed the company, hurting the hearts of the family after all. But no one was responsible for the incident. Meanwhile, Scars, another short story included in the book, seemingly has a strong fantasy touch, but I actually wrote it thinking of child abuse. I wanted to console those with wounded hearts, but the publisher told me that they wanted to gather similar short stories and edit them under the topic of “revenge.” All ordinary people go through injustice in their lives, and too many wrongful and unjust things happen in the world. I hope that you will find comfort in reading stories in which the main character somehow manages to get through such a world, and the characters in the novel offer even imaginary revenge.
When I write stories, the most important thing is writing a story that I myself find fun to read. And when I discuss a social agenda in the story, I try my best to be careful not to hurt the victims again.

 

* Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (trans. Anton Hur) trailer ⓒHonford Star

 

You are known for mainly covering fresh topics such as poverty, women, disability, minorities, and robots. It seems that you have a great interest in these topics Why is that?

 

As fantasy literature, SF, and speculative fiction are about finding and presenting new things by their nature, the perspective of a non-mainstream gives birth to a creative story. It is no fun to make stories with the main character with power in mainstream society as it is hard to write new stories with it.

 

 

The most important thing is to write stories that I myself find fun to read.

 

 

Cursed Bunny was recognized first among overseas readers and began to gain popularity. Did you expect it to be so? Also, have you heard about the response from overseas readers in detail? What does international popularity mean to you as a writer?

 

I never thought that my novel would be published in other countries in other languages. Translator Anton Hur invited me several times to online promotion events held overseas, such as Hong Kong, Jakarta in Indonesia, and Berkely University in the US, all of which allowed me to see how overseas readers think about my book. I was happy because, curiously, many readers said, “It was appealing” and “It is scary but fun.” Also, about the short story The Head, both Korean and overseas readers said they are scared to go to the bathroom after reading it, which was quite a fun response.
Cursed Bunny wasn’t a good seller in Korea, but as Honford Star told me that the book went viral through word of mouth, I get to think that perhaps the stories more suit the taste of international readers. To me, Korean readers are first, but I feel relieved and thankful that there are people reading my stories that were hidden in the shadows in Korea.

 

You turned into a star writer as Cursed Bunny became a bestseller. The publication rights were exported to 17 countries, including the UK and India, and other countries such as France and Greece are eyeing the book, and reviewing its publication. How do you feel?

 

I still can’t feel it in my skin, and it sounds like someone else’s story, but I think it’s a good thing as my agency and publisher are very happy. The last story of Cursed Bunny, Reunion, has Polish lines as the story takes place in Poland, but as Cursed Bunny is scheduled to be translated and published in Poland, I feel a bit embarrassed. So I asked the Polish translator to fix any errors in the Polish lines I wrote in Reunion.

 

How was the chemistry with translator Anton Hur who translated your book, and is there something you would like to tell him about the nomination?

 

Translator Anton Hur is like a genius translator as he knows my intention better than I do and expresses it more adequately and lucidly. As two of his translations were nominated for the Booker Prize, the capacity of translator Hur has been globally recognized. You are the best, Anton!

 

* K-Book Trends Vol. 37 – Go to the introduction of translator Anton Hur

 

* K-Book Trends Vol. 47 – Go to the article about Korean books recommended by translator Anton Hur

 

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Red Sword and To Meet Her

 

 

Among other titles than Cursed Bunny, which books do you think would be good to be introduced abroad?

 

As I’m not that proud of my works, I didn’t particularly think of introducing my works to overseas readers. Meanwhile, with the efforts of translator Anton Hur, my works Red Sword (Arzak) and To Meet Her (Arzak) are up for translation, and I particularly hope that To Meet Her – the title story of the book To Meet Her – encourages and consoles sexual minorities as I wrote it for them.

 

You must be quite pressured as you stand under the spotlight these days. So how are you preparing for your next title, and what are your future plans?

 

I haven’t been able to indulge in writing my next title. I don’t know what to do with what’s happening right now. But as people will lose interest in me when another writer wins the Booker Prize, I think I might just live in peace and write the stories I want to write. Thank you.

 

 


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#Bora Chung#Cursed Bunny#SF#Booker Prize#Anton Hur
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