Writer Kim Jung-Mi
Who Sees the World through the Eyes of Children
Writer Kim Jung-Mi began her career as a writer when she won the grand prize at the 4th Changbi Good Children’s Book Contest with her first book Gwaengyi boorimal (Changbi) (“Gwaengyi boorimal” derived from the name of the village, “Gwaengyiboori”). Since then, she has been writing children’s books, teen novels, and essays, presenting stories embedded with the “value of togetherness” to the world. Following is an interview with writer Kim Jung-Mi, who pays attention to little, painful things in this world more than anyone else.
It’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I Jung-mi Kim, a writer. My first work is Gwaengyi boorimal, and I wrote children’s books such as The Cat Living in Flower Island (Changbi) and Paper Meal (Little Mountain) as well as young adult novels including Thank You (Changbi) (“Cám ơn”, Vietnamese for ‘Thank You’) or That Day, a Cat Came to Me (Little Mountain).
Gwaengyi boorimal, Paper Meal, Thank You
How did you come to walk along the path of a writer?
I was angered by the distorted views directed to people suffering from poverty during IMF and the whole social atmosphere of treating the victims of IMF like they were incapable. I felt like I needed to make a point. Just one random day out of nowhere, I decided to start writing. I saw the advertisement for “Changbi Good Children’s Book Contest.” So I started writing out of nowhere. That is how I became a writer.
I wanted to make my voice heard in the unfair society.
What kind of person do you think children’s authors are?
I think Children’s authors are those who imagine a person’s heart. In general, adults continuously try to do something for children in their wish to look after children and be considerate. But they don’t try to go into the mind of children and attempt to view the world from their eyes. I think they need to view the world from the perspective of children and look at the happiness and sadness these children feel. So I think a children’s author is someone who imagines the minds of children.
The Cat Living in Flower Island
Your housemates consist mostly of cats, is there a story behind this?
I have been running a study room for 33 years in a place called Manseok-dong in Incheon. I don’t run it myself, but the whole community family runs it together. Since the area is an old place, there are many stray cats. So when we were looking after them in the study room, we would just feed them or get them treatment when they were sick. However, since I moved to the countryside. I started taking care of those who cannot live on the streets anymore. Then I ended up taking in more cats in need of help one by one.
Is there a reason behind you teaching children in a study room?
Back then, Korea was ruled by a dictatorial government and amid such a social atmosphere. I wondered how I should live as a young adult, and I chose to go to neglected villages and do something. When I met children living in these villages, I realized that the most desperately needed things for them are protecting each other and supporting each other. I’ve learned that these are the key to living together. That is why I placed emphasis and wanted them to learn the idea that I cannot live alone. We need to help each other out. The person standing next to me is as valuable as myself. I think various activities done in the study room are aligned with those values.
I wanted to teach children the power of community.
Is there a work that you are especially fond of?
First of all, I personally feel like that I have changed as a person after writing That Day, A Cat Came to Me. One of the graduates of my study room who was a father was also a fisherman. In January of 2016, he went out on the first fishing operation of the year, never to return. The profession of fishing was passed down from his parents. I was very proud of him since he never forgot about the friends and younger kids from the study room while he was working on fishing. I think I let him go while I was writing this book.
That Day, A Cat Came to Me
What is your plan for the future?
Well, the plan is to keep on writing. In fact, I continuously meet new people, and there are many others who tell me their stories. So, there are many more stories that I want to write about, and I am planning to work on them step by step.
#Kim Jung-Mi #Gwaengyi boorimal #children’s books #young adult novels