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Writer Sim Yun-Kyung

A writer with a broad spectrum from full-length novels to children’s literature




Writer Sim Yun-Kyung, referred to as the master writer of full-length novels in Korea, began writing fiction in 1998 and made her debut in 2002 with her My Beautiful Garden, winning the 7th Hankyoreh Prize for Literature. Since then, she has announced multiple full-length novels including The Moon’s Altar (Munhakdongne), Yi Hyeon’s Love Story (Munhakdongne), The Seorabeol People (Silcheon), and Seol-I, not to mention the children’s book The Series of Eun-ji & Ho-chan (Sakyejul) that has six volumes so far, astonishing her readers with her capability of writing stories across a number of fields from novels to children’s books. This is why her recently announced work Eternal Heritage is much anticipated.





Please introduce yourself to our subscribers.


Hello, everyone. I am novelist Sim Yun-Kyung. I published my first book in 2002, and until the newest title Eternal Heritage, which I have announced this year, I have written more than 10 fictions. It is quite difficult to introduce myself as a writer in a couple of sentences. It’s just that I feel lucky to have been able to write novels. I think I look into the most basic pains that anyone would have in their lives through the medium called novels and talk about them in my stories.


You won the 7th Hankyoreh Prize for Literature with My Beautiful Garden in 2002, and the 6th Muyeong Literary Award with The Moon’s Altar in 2005. How did you feel when you received those awards?


I was a lucky person in the early days of my career. I was lucky to a point where I even felt that everyone is as lucky as me, and it will last forever. But I believe that the awards and encouragements I got from the early days of my career helped me go through challenging times later on. If it were not for those glorious moments, I would have lost in the endless swirl of questioning myself whether I can even be called a novelist.




I think I look into the most basic pains that anyone would have in their lives
through the medium called novels and talk about them in my stories. 




You were an office worker before you began writing stories. What kind of work did you do, and how did it help you in writing stories?


I had been working for a company for about 4 years. I worked at a publishing company as I had a mere idea that I wanted to write stories someday. As I didn’t think of the workplace as a place where I should build my career as a specialist, but as a place where I can stick together with good people and have a good time, I had fun working there. I didn’t feel so pushed. I feel quite embarrassed now. I thought that I would be able to write stories if I work with many writers, but then I realized that you cannot learn writing by watching over others’ shoulders but should have a firm resolution and do it yourself. This is why I quit the job. But I do think that my 4 years of work experience, a blend of financial issues, human relationships, and tough time commuting, has become a precious asset to me.


Is there any of your work that you would like to recommend to overseas readers?


My Beautiful Garden (Hanibook) is a novel that talks about an ordinary elementary school kid living in a mountain village near the Blue House, where he witnesses and experiences the turbulent moments in modern history. I chose the village where I was born and grew up as the background and tried to mirror the experiences and emotions of the people who lived there into the story.
Seol-I (Hanibook) is a coming-of-age story where a 12-year-old orphan named Seol experiences the “passion towards education,” which is one of the key characteristics of Korean society. Seol is a poor orphan, but as she experiences the zeal for education in Deachidong, the mecca of middle-income families’ education, she throws out controversial questions such as “What is the love of parents?” and “Is passion for education a love?”
Another book I would like to recommend is Eternal Heritage (Munhakdongne). It is a generational novel that in which the background is an old village near the Gyeongbokgung Palace. In the “Byeoksusanjang,” a fancy Western-style house left by pro-Japanese Yoon Deok-Young, his daughter Yoon Won-Seop and Lee Hae-Dong, a son of an independent activist, meet each other. The confrontation of the two characters who pursue two totally opposite values takes place in the Byeoksusanjang, which the UN UNCURK used as their office building, and reflects our painful and confused minds toward the heritage left by the enemy. 





By Beautiful Garden, Seol-I, Eternal Heritage


Is there a line that you felt most impressive? If so, why?


The most impressive line was “Grandma, shall we go to Noruneomi?” by Dong-gu, the protagonist in My Beautiful Garden. It was a blood-stained line that I let out as one with Dong-gu, condensing all the trials, challenges, and fear that I had as I was writing the first novel.
In my other title Seol-I, the most precious line was “There is no shoulder that does not shake in this world.” Being a parent makes you feel like you are a commander in war, where you have to be responsible for your child’s life and lead it to victory. Still, sometimes you need to realize that you, the parent, is also just another incomplete human being, and let go of the burden you have on your shoulders.
Also, in Eternal Heritage, I would like to pick “There are things that last forever in this world.” It is a line murmured by Lee Hae-Dong, the son of a nameless independent activist, as he looks at Yoon Won-Seop, the daughter of a pro-Japanese who continues the successful life of her father with the help of the Byeoksusanjang. The devotion for independence that his dad exchanged for his life has faded away with time, but Byeoksusanjang remained firm and fancy. However, the mansion that was deemed to last forever has disappeared today. 


Among your many novels, which one is your favorite and why?


Well, apparently, my mind is mostly into the recent work Eternal Heritage. The great mansion “Byeoksusanjang” and the UN UNCURK were famous landmarks in the village that I grew up in. However, it faded away in people’s memory as it burned down in a fire in 1966. When historical facts and my personal experience faintly pass in my memory, power bursts in my body that I must put into letters. It was a long and challenging mission to describe what message the long-gone mansion wants to leave us, but it was indeed a rewarding experience.



심윤경 작가와 할머니사진

Photo of writer Sim Yun-Kyung and her grandmother.
The building far behind is the Byeoksusanjang mansion in Eternal Heritage.
The mansion was brought down after the photo was taken, and it became a reason for writer Sim to write a novel about it. 



What made you write in the two different genres of novels and children’s books?


Perhaps it’s because there is still the voice from my childhood vividly heard in my mind that hasn’t been heard yet. In other words, I am a woman in my 40s, but deep inside my body, there is a part that did not age as much as my physical body that still stays in my childhood. In my novels, too, two of them have an elementary school kid as the main character. As my most painful ego still lives in that period, I sometimes have to let go of everything like literary techniques or imagination and just follow its voice.


Your novels have a diverse and rich worldview for each work. What is your method for writing novels?


Well... I don’t have specific method, but as a person who lives quite a calm and non-fluctuating life – I don’t even leave my little town that often, I might have a strong desire to race from one end to another in a totally different world in my novel like Son Goku. When I plot a story, I get to think about the parts that I haven’t touched yet.




I read and write stories to cure my torn heart.




What do you do after you finish a work?


I spend time of ultimate peace. Nowadays is such time. When I am writing a novel, my mind is filled with anxiety, nervousness, rush, and blame for my lack of ability. So when I am not writing one, I try to ease my body and mind as much as I can like a sloth. I walk around in my house and my village, enjoying the moments in daily life. Then, I would be ready once again to go through the challenge of writing my next title.


Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to our subscribers?


It’s been 20 years since I began writing stories, and during those years, I personally had to go through some key struggles in my life which were as painful as breaking a bone. As I went through each of them, writing novels helped me calm down my bleeding heart and find meaning in life and heal the wounded mind. If it were not for the novels, I am sure that my mind would have broken into pieces. I believe that reading and writing have such power. If the young me read and wrote stories for the interest and joy of myself, now, I do so to cure my torn heart. Struggles in life will come again unless you reach nirvana, but I am yet happy that with this mindset, I might be able to remain a writer for a longer time. I hope that the power of reading and writing is with you at all times, just like it is with me.



Organized by Lee Ji-Hyeon


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