Discussion:
Korean speculative fiction again
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Joe Bernstein
2018-10-10 02:35:29 UTC
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So I've posted here before about South Korean speculative TV dramas,
which of course aren't strictly on-topic here. They've become a
*great* deal more common since that discussion - I estimate that
over 20% of total dramas are now speculative, and over 10% of ones
that originate on actual TV channels (broadcast or cable) as against
web dramas.

Things I forget whether I've posted about here before:

1. I have a tiny bit of evidence that at least one speculative drama
may have been made in North Korea. A book which otherwise doesn't
say much about NK-dramas does mention one it calls <A Portrait of
the Remote Future>. I've found no other information about this
drama outside that book; I don't know its Korean title or its
date. The only NK-drama I've found online isn't this one. I
don't even strictly know that it's speculative.
This would be pathetic except in the context of NK-drama, on
which there's only a small amount of evidence available in English
*in general*. The two best books on the subject total six
paragraphs on it.
Naively, one would *expect* science fiction in a notionally
Communist country. When I researched this before, I found a
web page that chronicled what the author was able to find on
the subject, and it wasn't much. I'll see if I can find it
again... YES! Yay!
<https://sinonk.com/2013/09/25/from-pyongyang-to-mars-sci-fi-genre-and-literary-value-in-north-korea/>

2. <Clarkesworld> has published an actual story, very arguably
science fiction, by South Korean writer Bo-young Kim.
<http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/bo-young_05_15/>

3. In general, the story goes (as told, for example, by that story's
translator, Gord Sellar) that there's very little written
speculative fiction in South Korea. I have no additional
information about this, but do have some context: South Korea's
literary world is snobby in the way that English-language ones
were maybe sixty years ago. I've read two novels by a reasonably
famous writer who's had three Englished, Kyung-Sook Shin. (One
is at least bordering speculation - her most famous, <Please Look
after Mom>. I preferred the other one I read - <I'll Be Right
There>.) Anyway, Shin, who is a quite literary writer by my
standards, has been looked down upon in South Korean literary
circles *because her books sell*. (I'm pretty sure at least one
movie is based on her work too.) When she was convincingly
accused of plagiarism, there was much schadenfreude. This is
pretty typical of all data I've been able to gather about the
South Korean literary world. (Other, lesser, data points: I've
watched a drama rooted in the premise that ghostwriting is seen as
evil. This may or may not actually be true of South Korea, but
does imply that nobody thinks it implausible that people would
need a moral license to publish fiction. Separately, one writer
of whose five novels two have become dramas is known only by a
blatant pseudonym - oh, and one of those two involves magic in a
vague past setting.) In this context, it's easy to believe that
it'd be hard to publish genre work in Korean.
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin_Kyung-sook>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star%27s_Lover>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jung_Eun-gwol> (her latest novel
is listed at Korean but not English Wikipedia)

4. There are definitely speculative comics, but to judge by those
that get made into dramas (as many do), quite a lot of Korean
comics *aren't* speculative.

5. A couple of North Korean movies are available at YouTube with
English subtitles that are more or less speculative.


South Korean movies, of course, fill all sorts of cult and niche
categories in the West, so you'd expect them to offer a lot more,
but I don't actually see such obvious candidates as <A Tale of Two
Sisters> or <I'm a Cyborg, and That's OK> as speculative; <A
Bizarre Love Triangle> has a trivially speculative frame story,
but the main body of the movie isn't; yada yada. You'd expect the
country that made <The Host> and <Snowpiercer> (based on a comic!)
to do more in this line, and I'm no expert in Korean movies, maybe
it does, but this has also been one of Gord Sellar's arguments,
and he lives there. (Flipside, I'm out of date on his blog, and
vaguely remember that he was seeing positive signs in one of the
last entries I read.)
<https://www.gordsellar.com/>

I should probably mention here that TV dramas themselves are seen
with plenty of contempt by right-thinking South Koreans. They're
only for women, after all. No, I'm not making that up. So it makes
sense that they'd be early adopters of spec-fic. I'm not sure
whether comics, which got there first, are also looked down upon;
at any rate one definitely doesn't hear all the time of them, as one
does of Japanese comics, that people of all ages and walks of life
read them, but they don't seem to get the opprobrium comics long got
in America.

ANYWAY.

What I know I *haven't* posted about here before is this:

Jamie Christopher Love did an M.A. thesis at California State
University, Dominguez Hills, in 2009 - *before* the drama spec-fic
boom, and before <The Host> and <Snowpiercer> - titled:

<The effects of Neo-Confucianism on South Korean speculative fiction
in the context of the Humanities>

It isn't online. Love is, and one reference to that thesis is at
<http://populargusts.blogspot.com/2010/04/foreigners-and-foreign-languages.html>
which has two comments of his that I, um, have difficulties with.

But all that aside - what I'm really wondering is, *what the heck did
he find to write about?* It's 300 leaves, which isn't short.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-10 19:21:30 UTC
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That story in "Clarkesworld" is... very strange.

"The Water-Babies" meets "Daughter of Regals"?
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-10 20:49:14 UTC
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(Flipside, I'm out of date on [Gord Sellar's] blog, and
vaguely remember that he was seeing positive signs in one of the
last entries I read.)
Stupid me. I'd found something I wanted to shout about, so went
ahead and posted while my phone, on which I could reach that blog,
was charging and unavailable.

This is, therefore, an errors and omissions post.
3. In general, the story goes (as told, for example, by that story's
translator, Gord Sellar) that there's very little written
speculative fiction in South Korea.
In this context, it's easy to believe that
it'd be hard to publish genre work in Korean.
Maybe so, but a book I'll post about shortly apparently collects
examples of science fiction going all the way back to the 1960s. So
seemingly it hasn't been impossible after all.
ANYWAY.
Jamie Christopher Love did an M.A. thesis at California State
University, Dominguez Hills, in 2009 - *before* the drama spec-fic
<The effects of Neo-Confucianism on South Korean speculative fiction
in the context of the Humanities>
what I'm really wondering is, *what the heck did
he find to write about?* It's 300 leaves, which isn't short.
Answered, perhaps. So does Love get credit for bibliographic
preparation for the book, or did he draw on someone else's work?
This may or may not actually be true of South Korea, but
does imply that nobody thinks it implausible that people would
need a moral license to publish fiction.
A side effect of finding out about the book is that I found out about
a reasonably large (40 writers) group called the
Science Fiction Writers Union of the Repbulic of Korea
<http://sfwuk.org/34>

That page includes the following:

| Those who do not qualify as our members include:
|
| 1. Those who do not write science fiction in a creative and
| original manner;

| 3. Those who have been convicted of criminal behavior in conflict
| with the Human Rights Regulations of this organization in the
| past ten (10) years from the date of membership application, or
| have been officially sanctioned by other organization(s) that
| they have been affiliated with in the past ten (10) years from
| the date of membership application;
|
| 4. Those who have plagiarized, confirmed by a final and conclusive
| judgment in court, criminal, civil or otherwise, or by its
| equivalent, or by self-acknowledgement.

Moral license indeed.

The group has imitated something I've seen in the Turkish equivalent -
listing members by photograph. The Turks gave that up in favour of a
text list, but that may be for religious reasons (i.e., censorship).
Anyway,
<http://sfwuk.org/52>
Click on a photo and you get text telling you about the person's
career with respect to science fiction.

(Oh, the Turks? <https://www.fabisad.com/>. They don't seem to have
English pages. On the other hand, they've admitted fantasy to the
group from getgo, saving them stupid fights.)
5. South Korean movies, of course, fill all sorts of cult and niche
categories in the West, so you'd expect them to offer a lot more,
but I don't actually see such obvious candidates as <A Tale of Two
Sisters> or <I'm a Cyborg, and That's OK> as speculative; <A
Bizarre Love Triangle> has a trivially speculative frame story,
but the main body of the movie isn't; yada yada. You'd expect the
country that made <The Host> and <Snowpiercer> (based on a comic!)
to do more in this line, and I'm no expert in Korean movies, maybe
it does,
This doesn't really change things, but I should've remembered
<Doomsday Book>, an anthology of three short films, one of which is
based on the title story in the book I'm about to post about.

Another reason I should've remembered <Doomsday Book> is that it
would've given me a segue to Bae Doona, about whom I wanted to talk.
She's an actress who's done a disproportionate amount of spec-fic in
movies and non-Korean TV series, though her K-drama record is mostly
mundane.

Spec-fic in her career so far:

1998 - <Angel's Kiss>, K-drama, her debut
1999 - <The Ring Virus>, her first Korean movie (an adaptation of the
Japanese original)
2000 - <RNA>, K-drama, her first starring role
2006 - <The Host>, Korean movie (she's the archer sister)
2009 - <Air Doll>, Japanese movie (she's the titular)
2012 - <Doomsday Book>, Korean movie (cameo at the end)
<Cloud Atlas>, English-language movie (various roles)
2015 - <Jupiter Ascending>, English-language movie (minor part)
2015-2018 - <Sense8>, English-language TV series
2018 - <Kingdom>, forthcoming K-drama (to originate on Netflix)

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
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