‘Who is your favorite author?’
I recently met with aspiring journalists and they asked me who my favorite author was. I mentioned a number of young writers, but then I changed my mind. “Actually my real favorite writers are television drama writers like Kim Soo-hyun, Jung Sung-joo and Kim Young-hyun. In fact, I have great respect for them.”
Kim Soo-hyun has been known as “the alchemist of words” and the “hands of Midas” throughout her career. Her works often see the essence of life by focusing on the lives of families who live and eat together as they fight and reconcile. Her greatness comes from proving the value of television dramas that are often considered trivial and low, addressing the meaning of everyday life. In partnership with director Ahn Pan-seok, Jung Sung-joo wrote “A Wife’s Credentials,” “Secret Love Affair” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Her works reveal the vanity and greed of the privileged class and those around them. Every one of her dramas is a bitterly funny satire. At the same time, her writing style is often compared to naturalist authors.
Kim Young-hyun is a master of the historical period drama and leadership characters. In “Dae Jang Geum,” she looked at feminist leadership, while “Queen Seondeok” and “Deep-rooted Tree” discuss the political leadership of reformist monarchs.
Online comics artist Yoon Tae-ho is the creator of “Misaeng,” which became the bases of a television series of the same title. Protagonist Jang Geu-rae is a portrayal of the 880,000-won-a-month generation, or the young people working low-paying irregular jobs. The character’s circumstances became the inspiration for the so-called Jang Geu-rae act.
I was once a literary girl who loved novels, but I have become distant from the genre for some time now. I don’t follow writers’ new works with anticipation any more. I cannot think of any recently published novels that are comparable to the above-mentioned dramas in terms of storytelling, characters, themes and zeitgeist.
I feel the same for Shin Kyung-sook, who is at the center of a plagiarism controversy. I once had deep love for her writing and works, but I haven’t read her latest works. In fact, I haven’t even read the best-seller, “Please Look After Mom.” While I was curious as a reporter, many of my friends said it was “not as good as expected.”
It is not a problem of the general crisis of novels and literature in the age of video. What made the United Kingdom a power in creative industry was the Harry Potter series. Many people are impressed by the clever ideas and stories of Japanese movies and read the novels that the movies are based on, and becoming fans. A solid fiction market bolsters American and European cinema, and lately, online comics serve that role in Korea.
Here, it is not appropriate to discuss popular genre novels and pure literature. What’s obvious is that the crisis of Korean literature revealed by Shin Kyung-sook’s plagiarism is more serious than we thought, and a thorough overhaul is urgent before more readers shun literature.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 27, Page 27
by YANG SUNG-HEE