Korean SF 2020: A Rushed Update

This entry is part 70 of 70 in the series SF in South Korea

The vagaries of full-time child-care and full-time work (online, thank goodness) on top of full-time pandemic and full-time global insanity have left me a bit out of the loop when it comes to Korean SF—and I feel a little less obligated to keep up this series now that more people out there in the rest of the world are paying attention to Korean SF—but I feel like it’s worth mentioning a few things:

Back in September, FutureCon happened. It was a great series of panel discussions about SF all over the world, and I highly recommend checking out all of them. (Since many of the panels happened late at night, in Korea’s time zone, I’m slowly working my way through them.) But in any case, I had a chance to moderate a panel on Japanese and Korean SF, which (more thanks to the panelists than to me) was fascinating. It featured Terrie Hashimoto, Taiyo Fujii, Haruna Ikezawa, and Soyeon Jeong.

You can see it here:

Check out the rest of the panels too, by going to the FutureCon channel on Youtube

Next, a new Korean SF series debuted on Netflix. I’m not sure where it’s available, though from what I know of Netflix, I’d be surprised if it’s not available everywhere already. The series is titled The School Nurse Files, and is based on an award-winning 2015 novel by Chung Serang. (You can read an excerpt from the book, translated by Kari Schenk, over at Korean Literature Now.

(Here’s a link to the show itself on Netflix.)

This isn’t the only new(-ish) SF-themed Korean show to turn up on Netflix: while I was looking for the link above, I also happened to notice My Holo Love, a love-story about a woman and a hologram. Shades of Her

I dunno… I haven’t had time to watch much stuff, and more and more SF themes have been creeping into the mainstream in Korean television. I don’t really follow cable television here, though, so I’m not the person to discuss that. Feel free to drop a comment below if you’re more in the loop than me!

(I’ll also mention in passing that zombie films and TV have been doing strong in Korea: Kingdom is a great Joseon-era zombie series. I won’t get too deep into it here, though, since I have a piece about it coming out as part of the “Appendix K” series. Meanwhile, though it was not without its minor problems, I nonetheless enjoyed the Netflix original #Survive.) 

Finally, publications!

There’s a few big publications of Korean SF in translation coming out next year—and that’s just what I’ve heard about:

In February 2021, Honford Star will be publishing Sung Ryu’s English translation of Bae Myung-hoon’s Tower, which is sort of a “mosaic novel” (or, as we used to call them, a “linked short story collection”) set in a mega-highrise called The Beanstalk. I’ve been hearing about the novel for years, and am looking forward to a chance to read it. (Preorders are available on Amazon for the Kindle edition, but not yet for the print edition.)

Then, in April, Harper Voyager will be publishing an English translation of a set of novellas by Kim Bo-young, titled I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories, translated by Sophie Bowman and Sung Ryu. You can preorder it on Amazon.com and presumably elsewhere. (I’m lucky enough to have one of the ARCs, and plan to dig into it soon. It includes all kinds of chewy reading notes and commentary on the translations, which is something I wish more translations included.)    

Finally, and this isn’t really new news—I’m nine months late—but in terms of Korean-only publications, an interesting new magazine titled 오늘의 SF (“Today’s SF”) launched late last year. It seems to feature a good mix of new/original fiction and nonfiction pieces. I’m guessing it’s been put on hold—like so many things—due to the pandemic, since only issue 1 comes up when I search the title, but that issue is a beauty: I have a copy here on my desk and it’s stylish, almost more like a thick paperback book than a magazine. Here’s hoping things get back on track next year, with more issues and stories. If you’re interested in getting a copy, it’s at most of the usual Korean booksellers. Here’s a linkto the magazine over at Yes24.  

Note: there have also been some short story collections that sounded interesting, but I’ll try cover those in a subsequent post. For now… well, I have other things I need to get done today!

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2 thoughts on “Korean SF 2020: A Rushed Update

  1. The second issue of Today’s SF is on its way! Things were indeed delayed due to the pandemic, but I am positive that we’ll be able to publish the second issue within this year. :D

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