Teens search for truth and meaning in new literary publicationsSpecies: Human Being (I’m not quite sure though. Human, 86.1 percent, alien, 11.4 percent, and impossible to calculate, 2.5 percent).
Languages: Korean, Japanese, emoticons, sound effects
Hobbies: Playing games, forcing friends to play games, forcing those friends to play a different game once they get into the game he forced them to play in the first place, laughing at silly things, bluffing, going to Yongsan without money, going to Yongsan to shop or encouraging friends to buy and then shirking away, getting frustrated, etc...
Living Pattern: Nocturnal. Shows more energy during the night. Since he loves the night time, he has a tendency to doze off during the day. Another trait is that his life lacks pattern and is full of irregularities...”
In a section of a new magazine called Pput, titled “Let Me Introduce My Friend,” Kim Sang-woo, a sophomore at Deung Chon High School, writes about his friend Huh Min-jae. The four-page essay in the literary magazine for adolescents is divided into four parts ― “Mr. Huh and his emoticons,” “The Dark Force,” “Mr. Huh’s Physical Components,” and “Game Show.” The excerpt above is a selection from “Mr.Huh’s Physical Components.” The page layout is blue with white lines and resembles a notebook, and is filled with writing and roughly cut photos of Min-jae.
For those who might be raising their eyebrows at the use of the word “literary” to describe such a magazine, consider what the term means to you.
Kim Kyung-ju, a poet and creative writing teacher at the Anyang High School of Art, in Gyeonggi province, and one of four senior editors at Pput explains what it means to him: “Any cultural content has the possibility to become literature. Blogs, Cyworld or Tattoo culture can all become a source of literature,”
Sang-woo’s writing might look like inarticulate scribbling to some. However, his essay has one crucial element essential to good writing ― the visible traces of the author’s search for his own truth. Towards the end, Sang-woo writes, “As I was writing this piece, I thought a lot about the meaning of friendship. Sometimes I feel as though I understand my friend completely when we share laughter, tears or some emotional bond. But wouldn’t it be tedious if I knew everything about a person and what he is going to say? Maybe the reason we continuously meet friends is not because we know them completely, but because we feel our hearts flutter whenever they cross the invisible line we draw in front of them at the start of the relationship.”
The essays and interviews by eight adolescents (five high school students and three freshmen at university), which make up about 40 percent of the magazine’s pages, all in one way or the other, like Sang-woo’s, question the fundamental meaning in things around their authors. “This is the difference. When adults write about what is poetic and the elements that go into the makings of a good poem, teens write about what a poem is. This makes their writing that much more courageous and experimental, many times untamed but interesting at the same time,” Mr. Kim said.
Pput, whose first edition was published this June by Munhakdongne Publishing Corp., is the latest addition to a string of literary magazines that have emerged in the last two years, including “Miroo,” “Ida,” “Munhaka” and “Sentir.” According to the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation, a total of 12 magazines for adolescents are sponsored by the foundation, and nine were sponsored in 2005. Jung Woo-young, the director of the Cultural Cooperation Office at the foundation said that in 2004, when the foundation started its sponsorship project, there was only one literary magazine for adolescents ― “Puren Jakga,” an annual magazine for teens that is now printed twice a year.
So why the sudden increase? Mr. Kim said that because of an increasing importance put on essay writing in college entrance procedures, many students are reading more and more. Chai Ho-gi, a poet and creative writing professor at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, as well as the representative director of Moonji Publishing Company, one of the largest publishing companies in Korea, said, “Although there might have been other ways to get teens to read, I think it is still good that this change in the college entrance system encourages teens to pick up a book or two.”
However, others disagree. “Although I would like more teens to get interested and excited about literature and reading, I also do not think teens starting to read only for college entrance exams is going to change anything,” said Yang Soo-young, a sophomore at the Anyang High School for Art and an editor at Pput.
Another senior editor for Pput, Kim Hyeon-jin, also a scenario writer for cult TV shows including “Do What You Want,” writes as an end note for Pput, “If someone reads this magazine in the hope of winning a literary prize and entering university more easily, I want to say that that is annoying and sad. There will be many circumstances where one will need to be clever to get what one wants, but at least for now (in your teens), please tell us your truth.”
The magazine started from an ambitious idea from Mr. Kim and students in his creative writing class in the Anyang High School of Art last year. Then, around February, with the aid of Munhakdongne Publishing Corp., they published a mini, pilot edition of Pput. The edition was well-received so the company published its first edition, with four senior editors and eight student editors, along a main theme of “Boredom.”
In this summer edition, there is a mixture of essays from high school students (who are a part of an adolescent editorial group for Pput), interviews of famous authors and poets (conducted by the students) including Park Hyeung-jun and Park Jung-dae, the first chapter of a relay novel started by popular Internet author and critic Djuna (www.djuna.org/movie) and short texts contributed by writers and senior editors at Pput.
When asked why “Boredom” was chosen as the theme for the first edition, Kim Seung-il, 19, a teen editor at the magazine, said, “Although our generation has so much, we keep searching for meaning. We are constantly bored out of our minds. This poverty in spirit alongside our comfortable, material existence, we felt, represented what adolescents feel.” Pput hopes to find meaning behind this boredom, however. Editors say the seasonal magazine plans to add more authors, especially adolescent writers and make more pages available to them. It has plans to continue satirical sections, such as interviews with writers whose literature appears in high school textbooks, asking them to solve text book questions about their writing. It plans to look at new themes and controversies. It plans to search for truth. It plans.
by Cho Jae-eun