Koreabeat Translates Lime

Koreabeat recently translated a post by Lime that was written a few years ago, wherein she criticized the writing courses at a hakwon she’d tried out. She was quite surprised to see this fact. And almost immediately someone assumed she was criticizing white hakwon teachers, when, ironically, she was talking about writing courses taught by Korean teachers to Korean students. Someone also IDed her almost immediately. Now I can’t help but wonder if I know SKFK personally, or what?

6 thoughts on “Koreabeat Translates Lime

  1. Nah, we don’t know each other personally. I’ve been following your blog off and on for several months, so I knew about Lime’s site as well. I hope you two were not offended by me “outing” her. I just wanted to clear up the factual error about Lime’s gender in the original Koreabeat post.

    In case you’re wondering about me, I’m a Korean national and I’ve been living in the US since 2000 (just got my green card last year). I’ve been checking out various expat blogs for the past couple of years, and I stumbled upon your blog and kept reading it because of the science fiction angle. (I was a co-writer of the screen story for the movie 2009 Lost Memories.)

    1. SKFK,

      Cool. She wasn’t offended by you identifying her, though it did drive home that, woah, people out there whom she’s never met do read her blog and have connected it to mine. No worries, this is a good kind of thing to be aware of.

      By the way, I’m glad the SF angle interests you. Were you into SF when you lived here? Are you a screenwriter now? If you weren’t offended by what I said about 2009: Lost Memories then there’s no way I would be offended by what you wrote on that comment! (Though from what I’ve heard from other screenwriters, criticisms of films often point out things that unfortunately departed from screenwriters’ vision anyway.)

  2. Oh yeah, I was into SF ever since I was a kid. I think that many Koreans my age were encouraged to read SF when we were growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s, because the government saw SF as a way to make kids interested in science and engineering necessary for Korea’s economic development. In particular, there was a line of SF novels (called Idea Club) translated and published in the ’70’s for children, and almost everyone at my school were reading them. The books even included a letter of encouragement written by the Minister of Science and Technology in the foreword.

    Here’s a link to something called Jikji Project (styled after Project Gutenberg, except that these guys deal with copyrighted material rather than public domain stuff, and they focus only on SF books, most of them from Idea Club line) if you want to get some sense of what kind of stuff we grew up reading.


    The downside of encouraging kids to read SF is that it served to confirm the general belief that speculative fiction such as SF and fantasy was immature reading material for kids. In addition to that, many Koreans give up reading for pleasure as they enter the competitive race for the college and job hunting. I was just fortunate that, when I first came to the US as a college freshman, I was able to regain the sense of wonder I got from reading. I’ve drifted away from reading SF and most other prose books over the years, but I’m still a big fan of comic books. I’m turning 40 years old this year, and even today I never fail to stop by the local comic book shops every Wednesday to pick up the week’s new releases.

    I’m not a screenwriter, or any kind of professional writer by any means. In fact, I was brought onto the 2009 Lost Memories precisely because I was not a part of the Korea film industry at the time. Stanley Kim, executive producer of the movie, was having a hard time finding an established screenwriter who knew enough about SF to work on the movie. He belonged to the same online film community that I was a member of, so he knew about my interest in genre fiction and movies. He emailed his original proposal to several people he knew in the community (including me) and asked for feedback. I wrote back with several problems I had with the proposal and my ideas about how to fix them. When he signed the director for the movie several months later, it just happened that the director had almost exactly the same concerns as I did with the proposal, so that’s how I became involved with the movie.

    I certainly wasn’t offended by what you wrote about 2009 Lost Memories. It’s been over ten years since I worked on it (I can’t believe it’s actually year 2009 now!), and I’m still confident in saying that the choices we made for the movie were, for the most part, the best ones we could have made given the limitations and circumstances of Korean film industry at the time.

    For instance, I’m sure you understand that even today, there is no way that a movie can be made in Korea where Korea doesn’t prevail over Japan at the end. Right before 2009 Lost Memories was released in 2002 when only the basic premise (“an alternate history where Korea is still occupied by Japan”) was publicized without revealing the plot twist, the movie became a target of many outraged netizen attacks. The message board on the official movie website was filled with posts calling the filmmakers no better than Japanese collaborators and traitors of the occupation period. I still cannot take OhMyNews seriously, because it was one of the news outlets that tried to fan the flames against the movie by printing inaccurate articles about it. One OhMyNews article in particular wrote, “based on the publicity material for the movie, it is certain that the movie will not end with Korea becoming independent from Japan.”

    By the way, the finished movie is surprisingly faithful to the treatment that I wrote with the director. (The only significant difference is that a major action sequence, which would have involved a helicopter crash and resulting bridge collapse, was replaced with a less expensive one.) I’m sure that had a lot to do with the fact that the director was involved right from the beginning of the writing process. Due to the peculiarities of the Korean film industry (there is no such thing as “story by” credit in Korean movies) the director was credited as the screenwriter, the actual person who wrote the screenplay based on our treatment was credited for “adaptation,” and I got the credit as story consultant.

  3. SKFK,

    Yeah, I knew about the kids’ line and a little about the gov’t encouraging kids to read it back in the day — one SF fan I met at an SF fan gathering here a few weeks ago talked about it with me for a while — though you’ve provided me with way more detail than I ever had before. Thanks for that Jikji Project link!

    In addition to that, many Koreans give up reading for pleasure as they enter the competitive race for the college and job hunting.

    And I suspect it’s probably even worse now, given the growth of the hakwon industry since then. One SF translator I met at the same party said, “Koreans don’t read SF…” and then clarified, “Koreans don’t read!”

    Which I though was a flabbergasting statement given the size, number, and popularity of the big book outlets in Seoul, but then again, considering the number of people they’re serving, maybe it’s not much different from the (relative) scarcity of bookstores in the smaller centers I’ve lived in.

    That story of how you got involved in 2009: Lost Memories is pretty interesting. From what I’ve seen of other Korean SF films, I’m not surprised that Stanley Kim couldn’t find a screenwriter who knew the genre. (Though, as I say, I think it’s slowly improving.) I can hear what you say about the limits of the market and the audience and so on–one of my favorite Korean films bombed in cinemas because, I suspect, of a kneejerk reaction against any film that dared show a Korean daring to do better for herself in Japan during the colonial era than she ever could have in her homeland–but I also suspect that as soon as you’re pushing the “minjok” button without hotwiring it to something very self-critical, you’re bound to come up with ideas that work poorly as SF. (Whereas I think pushing the “minjung” button works quite well for SF… as I argue in a paper I’m still kinda working on these days.)

    And yeah, man, it’s 2009. Shock!

    So if I may ask, as I’m sure you’ve read Bok Geo-il’s novel In Search of an Epitaph, how much similarity is there between his book and the movie 2009: Lost Memories? I know there was a lawsuit and Bok lost, but I don’t know how close the stories really were. (I haven’t found a decent synopsis of the novel anywhere, though I hope Minsoo Kang indeed does someday translate it. He once suggested somewhere online that he’d like to translate some of Bok’s work, and judging by Kang’s own writing — I’m just now reading through his Of Tales and Enigmas it’d definitely be worth reading.)

    So what’s your favorite comic series?

  4. It may look like Koreans read a lot, but I believe that most of them read for practical reasons rather than for pleasure. If you check the bestseller lists in most Korean bookstores, you will find that they are mostly filled with “useful” books such as English study guides and “how to succeed and make a lot of money” books. Even when Koreans read for pleasure, they tend to choose nonfiction books such as essay collections and memoirs rather than fiction. I think it’s related to how speculative fiction is treated as juvenile reading material, because the other side of that viewpoint is the idea that books based on “real life” are more appropriate for adults.

    “So if I may ask, as I’m sure you’ve read Bok Geo-il’s novel In Search of an Epitaph, how much similarity is there between his book and the movie 2009: Lost Memories? I know there was a lawsuit and Bok lost, but I don’t know how close the stories really were.”

    Actually, I haven’t read Bok’s novel myself. It was originally published in 1987, which was the same year that I first came to the US as an undergraduate, so I didn’t know about it until Stanley Kim contacted me with the idea for the movie. Stanley specifically told me that the only thing he took from the novel was the alternate history angle and nothing else, so I didn’t make the effort to seek it out either. I didn’t really have time to read it beforehand anyway, because I began working with the director less than a week after meeting him for the first time.

    I did look up what the novel is about, and as far as I can tell, the characters and the stories are totally different from the movie. The novel has no time travel element, and the setting is slightly different. While the movie shows Korean characters knowing their heritage and speaking Korean in private, in the novel Korea has completely become a part of Japan. The language, history, and culture of Korea have been completely wiped out.

    The main character, Hideyo Kinoshita, is a middle-aged family man with a wife and a daughter. He has a white collar job, and he’s been writing poetry as a hobby for the past twenty years. Kinoshita makes a big contribution to his company by working on a joint investment deal, but he gets passed over for promotion because of his “peninsular” origin. When a collection of his poems is published as a book, he takes his poetry collection to his uncle to celebrate the occasion. While visiting his uncle, he learns that his real family name is Park, and that there used to be a country called Chosun. Kinoshita buys a book of Korean poetry from a used bookstore, and begins learning about the language and history of Korea. He finds the last copy of a Korean language dictionary at a university (all other Korean books at the university had been sent to Japan), and begins studying the language in secret. While reading an issue of a news magazine he received from an American co-worker, he finds out that there is a Korean government in exile in Shanghai. Kinoshita is fortunate enough to go to Japan to work on his company’s joint investment deal. (Ethnic Koreans need special permit from the government to travel to Japan) While he’s in Japan, he acquires more books about Korea from Tokyo University and Kyoto University. However, while returning from Japan, his books are confiscated at the airport and he is arrested. After undergoing the reeducation process designed to eliminate all Korean identity out of any curious ethnic Koreans, he is released. Kinoshita becomes a target of persecution, and he receives pressure from his job to resign. He discovers his wife secretly meeting her friend’s husband, a Japanese military officer named Aoki. He realizes that his wife slept with Aoki in order to secure his release from the authorities. Fortunately, Kinoshita is able to keep his job. When his wife’s birthday comes up, he invites her close friends, including Aoki and his wife, to the party. But Aoki comes to the party without his wife, gets drunk, and begins acting out of control. Aoki even tries to sexually assault Kinoshita’s daughter. Even though Kinoshita knows that his action will ruin the rest of his life, he kills Aoki by choking him. At the end of the novel, he leaves his wife and daughter behind to join the Korean government in exile in Shanghai.

    The novel is mostly a satire (the publisher’s website compares the novel to Swift and Orwell) that criticizes the oppressive military dictatorship of Korea by comparing it to the Japanese colonial government in the alternate history. The novel has a lot of stuff that can be read as parodying the then-contemporary incidents in Korea, such as a military coup d’etat, death of a student protester during an anti-government demonstration, and a corrupt deal involving a military weapons contract. There is even a part about how the Japanese government is trying to show the world that its occupation of Korea is good for Koreans, by hosting the Olympics in Seoul. One blogger even accused Bok of plagiarism, because apparently a large part of the novel was written by simply taking 1980’s newspaper articles and changing them slightly.

    “So what’s your favorite comic series?”

    Oh boy, you’re going to be sorry that you asked me that question. Comic books are pretty much the only form of entertainment I enjoy these days, so I buy and read a whole lot of them. (I used to be an avid moviegoer, but I fell out of the hobby due to working long hours and having to take care of my family. We only have one TV at home, so my wife and kids get to watch what they want.) I follow some series in trader paperback collections only, but I buy a lot more comics in single issues. Here are some that I enjoy reading right now. (Title and publisher)

    *100 Bullets (DC/Vertigo)
    *Age Of Bronze (Image)
    *DMZ (DC/Vertigo)
    *Ex Machina (DC/WildStorm)
    *Fables (DC/Vertigo)
    *Rex Mundi (Dark Horse)
    *Scalped (DC/Vertigo)
    *The Walking Dead (Image)

    [Single Issues]
    *The Acme Novelty Library (Chris Ware)
    *Astonishing X-Men (Marvel)
    *Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics)
    *Batman (DC)
    *The Boys (Dynamite Entertainment)
    *Casanova (Image)
    *Criminal (Marvel/Icon)
    *Daybreak (Bodega)
    *Detective Comics (DC)
    *Echo (Abstract Studio)
    *Fall Of Cthulhu (Boom! Studios)
    *Fear Agent (Dark Horse)
    *House Of Mystery (DC/Vertigo)
    *Jonah Hex (DC)
    *Locke & Key (IDW)
    *Love And Capes (Maerkle Press)
    *Madame Xanadu (DC/Vertigo)
    *MOME (Fantagraphics)
    *Mouse Guard (Archaia Studios Press)
    *Neozoic (Red 5 Comics)
    *Northlanders (DC/Vertigo)
    *The Perhapanauts (Image)
    *Proof (Image)
    *Rasl (Cartoon Books)
    *The Sword (Image)
    *The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse)
    *Young Liars (DC/Vertigo)
    *Wasteland (Oni Press)
    *X-Factor (Marvel)

    I’ve only listed currently ongoing series and left out the ones that ended their run (such as All Star Superman and Y: The Last Man) and sporadically published ones (several titles published by Image Comics such as Bad Planet, Fell, Gutsville, Infinite Horizon and Special Forces seem to be on extended hiatus or on really irregular schedules). Let me know if you’re unfamiliar with any series and want to know more about them.

  5. SKFK,

    Yeah, I have to agree about the popularity of nonfiction here. I’ve noticed that the fiction section in any Korean bookstore is, comparatively, much smaller than the fiction sections of bookstores I remember back in Canada. Or, no, rather, all the nonfiction sections are relatively much larger, I guess, and the shops are much more massive overall.

    That said, I think I’ve met more people with a passion for novels than I would have expected considering many of my students aren’t Lit majors. But they’re overwhelmingly young women, so that may skew things a bit.

    Another reason I think contributes to this is the fact that a LOT of the Korean fiction I’ve encountered has been so serious (as well as focused on history from which younger people already feel quite disconnected). What I mean is that a lot of it may be interesting, but most of what I’ve encountered has been overall more gloomy and serious than fun or entertaining.

    Thanks for the summary of Bok’s novel: I really wish it existed in translation, as it definitely sounds like something that would be up my alley. (I have trouble imagining it carried off as satire, but that’s part of the appeal for me as well.)

    As for that comics list, I recognize almost nothing you mentioned, but that’s not too surprising: I’m not well-versed in comics and never really got into them. (In part because my local library never had much and I never had money or access till I was caught up with other interests that consumed that money and time, I think.)

    Not long ago I did read the first book of Y: The Last Man, though, and really liked it. (I’ll pick up the rest this year and read ’em.) I also have been told (by many people) that I’d like some of the stuff by Warren Ellis. Oh, and of course I know some of Alan Moore’s stuff — Watchmen, V for Vendetta, things like that. As you can tell, I’m totally ignorant of comics.

    But now I know who to ask if I’m ever thinking of getting into a series.

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