The London Book Fair Korea Market Focus 2014: Writing Home – Migrant Literature

How does national and personal identity endure in foreign and faraway lands? Join us to explore Korea’s relationship with the rest of the world through literary portrayals of Korean emigrants in the writing of Kim Insuk and Kim Young-ha, whose novels portray Koreans in places as varied as Australia and Mexico.

Kim InsukKim Young-ha and Xiaolu Guo; Chaired by Ellah Allfrey

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Date: Wednesday 9 April, 10.00-11.00
Venue: Whitehall Room, Earls Court


Kim Insuk was born in Seoul in 1963. Some of her works, The Road Travelled TogetherThe Light Nearby, and 1979-1980 Between the Winter and the Spring, are based on her experience of the democratisation movement in Korea during the 80s. After 1990, Korean society also underwent abrupt changes in the midst of the shifts in the world order brought on by the end of the Cold War. Kim devoted herself to scrutinizing the problems of compromise, fatigue, depression, and lethargy that began to appear in Korean society as it internalized the new capitalist order. Blade and Love and Story of a Woman are some of her works from this period. In 1993 Kim resided in Sydney, Australia for one and a half years; at the beginning of the 2000s she stayed for three and a half years in Dalian, China. Kim’s works The Long Road,Sydney, Standing at the Blue Ocean, and Ocean and Butterfly are based on those experiences. She has created stories that take place somewhere in the world beyond the borders of Korea. Kim’s works also include That Woman’sAutobiographyBye, ElenaTo Be Insane and Sohyeon. From the beginning of her writing career, Kim has persistently produced works that deal with the problems of the present time and that offer introspection into the human existence, without losing sight of the currents of changes in reality.


Kim Young-ha was born in 1968. He studied business administration at university and made his literary debut in 1995. Kim’s novels are a post-Romantic narrative of a nomad. Kim often introduces himself as a man without a hometown . Because his father was in the military, Kim switched schools once a year and learned the new rules of the game every time. His childhood experience of migration was perhaps a fate dealt to him; Kim Young-ha, the novelist, in turn, desires the experience of diaspora and blends it into his writing. His novels incessantly travel across the boundaries between reality and fantasy, desire and death, consciousness and body,  fiction and media, Korea and foreign countries. To Kim, boundaries are the places of communication. I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, a fascinating depiction of the aesthetics of death; Black Flower, a rigorous thinking on the possibility of being outside of a nation; and The Pager, a subversive portrayal of the relationship between reality and fantasy, are some of Kim’s most famous works. Aside from these, Kim has also published My Brother’s BackQuiz ShowYour Republic Is Calling YouI Hear Your Voice and A Murderer’s Guide to Memorization. He has hosted a radio show about books, has served as a professor at Korean National University of Arts, and has had a long-term stay in Canada and the US after 2008. His works have been translated and introduced in the US, France, Germany, Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Japan and China.

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