Beyond the Interview: Sora Kim-Russell

08^883618 1Shin060814.jpgWhile in Korea, I had the fantastic opportunity to meet with Sora Kim-Russell, the lovely woman who translated I’LL BE RIGHT THERE by Kyung-Sook Shin.  I had such a wonderful time.  Here’s a preview of the interview:

During the process of translating I’ll Be Right There, what was the nature of your relationship with Kyung-sook Shin, the author?  How much contact and collaboration went on?
There was a fair amount of contact and collaboration, especially compared to other translation projects I’ve worked on, but it was mainly during the revision and editing stages.  I usually save my questions for the writer until I’ve completed the rough draft, because I like the idea of being alone with the book and having my own understanding of it. It makes it easier to immerse yourself in the characters’ lives.  But once that stage of translation was done, I began going back and forth with the writer, both to clarify parts of the text that were unclear or confusing and to discuss changes and alterations that were made in the translation. In some cases, that meant just a quick email to confirm a detail, and in other cases, we had face-to-face meetings to discuss the book.
Could you talk a little about the process of identifying and then translating the voice of Jung Yoon, the protagonist of I’ll Be Right There?
It was definitely challenging at first.  When I first started translating the book, I didn’t feel a strong personal identification with the character, so there was a process, for me, of understanding her and understanding what makes her tick, why she reacts to things the way she does, why she says the things she says.  But at some point it all clicked, and it became much easier to capture her voice. For example, one specific challenge was her tendency to hold back—when other characters say things to her, she doesn’t always answer immediately but instead echoes their words back to them. Her emotions are projected onto the world around her rather than being stated outright. I found this indirectness tricky to connect with emotionally, but once I’d read and translated the entire book and saw how the pieces fit together, she suddenly made sense to me. I noticed how it wasn’t just about the things she says directly but also the way she views the world, the details that she lingers over—in other words, not just her direct dialogue and thoughts but all of the narrative sentences in between. That was where her personality revealed itself to me.
Don’t just get spoiled with the preview, go check out the full interview HERE.  The interview was fascinating and insightful.  But everyone knows that what one gets on camera is not the whole story.  (It’s not like I filmed the interview either so actually, I didn’t get anything on camera– but you understand what I’m saying.)  The real questions and discussion didn’t start until after I was done asking the questions I planned for my website.


My journey to the interview will be posted another day because that was an adventure all by itself.  However, after I stopped recording the words, our discussion shifted.  Ms. Sora Kim-Russell is an awesome person and wonderfully-easy to talk to.  You know me: here I was, freaking out.  I mean I was about to meet this amazing translator (go read I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin RIGHT NOW) who translated this awe-inspiring book.  I was nervous, like super nervous– ready to pass out.  I just had lunch a few hours before (돈까스, so delicious!) and I thought I may be sick.  However, Ms. Sora Kim-Russell was so nice.
Our discussion was filled with random things brought upon previous responses.  I remember us talking about writing and Korean literature, Netflix and Seoul.  I had an awesome time meeting and speaking with her.
shin-140428-1Before I left, Ms. Sora Kim-Russell signed my book.  It now sits on my shelf, next to the novel in Korean.  It really is a wonderful piece of art.  Check out my book review HERE.
I left the interview an hour or so after we had begun.  The air was a bit chill, greeting me as I exited the underground complex of 이대, Ewha Womans University.   I stood there for a moment, clutching the newly-signed book and thought about how lucky I was to be there.
Thank you.

I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin

STATUS UPDATE: I have returned, safe and sound, back to America.  But that does not mean, I am going to stop posting.  I have so much to tell you about my time in South Korea.  Due to assignments and just plain busyness, posting will obviously be a little late.  However, I have posts planned out and I just have to write them.  Stay tuned.

While in South Korea, I got the wonderful opportunity to meet the translator of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin, Sora Kim-Russell.  The interview was both inspiring and insightful.  I’ll be posting the interview soon.  However, here’s my review of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin.

08^883618 1Shin060814.jpgI’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin

Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Pages: 336
Source: purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief. Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.–Goodreads

In all honesty, this book review is very difficult to write.  This book is something I need to get out on paper, something that I just need to explain because… feelings.  It’s the type of book I want to leave behind another book on my shelf, pretend it was unread so when I return to it, I will relive the same emotions I feel now.  I don’t know how to explain it but this book has taken me on a rollercoaster and still stuck high in the sky.  The book was pure genius, pure awesome-ness (and I don’t mean that slang term that everyone uses- I’m talking actual AWE!).  Let me explain.
I cannot explain this book with a mere summary because that simple paragraph would not suffice.  I’ll Be Right There is about life and not just the fictional life of the character, Jung Yoon, but of my life and of your life, and everyone’s life and how we are entwined into the world’s life.  For a lack of a better quote, “We are all in this together” (High School Musical -no one is ever to old for that).  I finished this book late at night, when the rest of the house was asleep, and was surprised to find my cheeks wet with tears.  Seriously, I don’t cry while reading or while watching films.  I rarely cry at all, in fact.  There was something about this book that made me weep.  Something about its truthfulness that touched me so much so that I cried.
Without giving too much away, I want to bring your attention to the title.
I’ll Be Right There is translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell, who I had the wonderful chance of meeting while in Korea.  The interview I had with her should be posted soon.  Translated work is always similar and at the same time different.  Sora Kim-Russell did a grand job with this work.  Kyung-sook Shin’s voice, best known for Please Look After Mom, also shined through the translation.  The collaboration between author and translator worked very well to bring together the English version.
shin-140428-1I’ll Be Right There. The outstanding title for the outstanding book.  Talk of the title is mentioned briefly in the novel.  With whom can you say the words of the title to someone and have it be the truth?  And as time passes, will that person remain the same or will there come a time that you saying those words not mean anything at all?  The title itself personifies the whole book (personifies is not the best word but I’m trying to explain what Shin has done here so cleverly).  Kyung-sook Shin is telling her readers how gentle life can be, how powerful and meaningful, and how rough and sad life can be as well.
For graduating high school students and college students, the go-to book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.  Seuss tells us with the title: if you can dream it, you can do it.  Instead of getting a graduate that book, gift them I’ll Be Right There.  It makes readers ask the important questions and keep asking, long after the novel is over.
IMG_2877While I was in South Korea, I connected with the protagonist as if we were the same person- that’s how close I related to her.  Jung Yoon, a college student, tries to find her path in a sea of roads that could lead anywhere.  Even after the initial relationship between reader and character, I decided to follow some of her adventure.  In the beginning of the book, Yoon describes her walks in the city– I followed her footsteps among many landmarks around Seoul, South Korea.  Even if you do not have access to Seoul, South Korea (to take walks and try on Jung Yoon’s shoes), the character still proves to be relatable with her inner thoughts bubbling to the surface of the page.
The ending was hard to believe.  Not that it was unbelievable, but just that it was difficult to face as truth.  I wanted to be a child, stamp my foot, and swiftly shake my head.  I wanted an adult to nudge my shoulder and say with a sigh, “Well, that’s how it is.  That’s life.”  I’m still trying to admit that Kyung-sook Shin left it at that.  The ending was not disappointing.  The ending was just how it was supposed to end.  That is how it is.
I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin is a fantastic work of art which immersed me in its mesmerizing grasp with its poetic writing, life-like characters, and reality-check plot.  It is most definitely worth picking up.
Cover: 5
Writing Style: 5
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Ending: 5

London Book Fair Day 1

To be completely honest, the title of this post is misleading.  I am, sadly, not attending London Book Fair, nor have I ever but I hope to in the future.  However, in the next few days while the London Book Fair is going on, I will be researching tons of things on what is going on over there.  The London Book Fair is showcasing South Korea’s publishing industry, which is partly the reason why I decided that I should take a closer look at their industry too.


I want to keep you in the know and share with you one thing I’ve learned from my research of South Korea’s book publishing world (that is discussed at London Book Fair).  Most of the information I found can be read in the PW London Book Fair Show Daily Day 1.

Webtoons (also known as comics/만화 (manhwa))

Today, let’s talk about webtoons.  South Korea seems to be the king of webtoons (or maybe we can call them the hipsters of webtoons).  Surely, with the Korean Wave that I’ve mentioned before, will eventually be introducing webtoons to the world soon.  This is why I think it is so fantastic for South Korea’s publishing industry to be showcased in London because it is breaking out of their circle of readers and letting others know about their publishing market trends.

The lecture that is taking place at London Book Fair, is done by comic book writer, Yoon Tae-Ho.  He seems to be a fantastic writer, and has received top honors in Korea Content Awards.  One of his comics has even been made into a movie, Moss (directed by Kang Woo-Suk).  Check out the trailer below:

I will definitely be checking this out, among the other works he has done.

I didn’t realize webtoons were such a big thing in South Korea’s publishing world.  I haven’t read much comics.  I only read a few mangas and some American graphic novels but from what I’ve learned from Korean media, they know how to make a good story, no matter what outlet it may come from.

If you have any recommendations of South Korean authors, comic writers, or publisher, let me know and I’ll make sure to research more about them.

Why South Korea?

Everyone has asked me the question, and I mean everyone: why South Korea?  They ask for a number of reasons but the top two are because (1) they genuinely want to know why I personally choose the country or (2) they are concerned for my safety and have decided to tell me not to go but they want to hear my excuse first.

Since you, people of the Internet, don’t know me that well yet: I hope you ask why for the first reason.

My first, noticeable piece of South Korea was something that I stumbled upon on Youtube.  I watched this video that started this curiosity:

Mind you, at the time I was going through the worst semester ever and coping by trying to pick a study abroad program that was right for me.  Maybe this was more subliminal messaging but I am glad that I fell for it.

With the video, I was interested in the one show that I wasn’t at all familiar with and it shocked me because I was definitely familiar with Tumblr.  It was a show called You’re Beautiful.  When I read what the show was about, I was sold.  I didn’t realize it was Korean until I started watching it.

You're Beautiful-Korean Drama

During the worst semester ever, there were some highlights.  Watching the cheesy but terribly hilarious You’re Beautiful was one of them because discussing the drama was actually how I met one of my best friends.  She is an exchange student from South Korea and throughout the semester, she pushed me into putting more effort into researching the study abroad program for South Korea.  And I delved into everything I could about the country, culture, pop culture, and study abroad program.  And found out some awesome things that I just couldn’t say no to.

Jeanna’s Top 5 Reasons Why South Korea Is The Place To Go

1. Book Publishing


I didn’t mention before but I am studying English and Communication Arts to become a book publisher—hopefully, right after graduation.  South Korea’s book publishing industry (as it seems from the research I did) is developing but at a fast pace.  The country is being showcased in this year’s (2014) London Book Fair.  Also, there is a huge book convention in South Korea: Paju Booksori (파주북소리) every year, which is said to be the largest book publishing convention in all of Asia.  Since 2012, I have participated in Book Expo of America (BEA) but to be able to attend another convention would be amazing.  Plus, there is a place nicknamed Book City (Paju).

2. the Korean Wave


I actually wasn’t even aware of the Korean Wave until I read about it, during my research.  South Korea is taking the world by storm with its pop culture.  Right now, South Korean musicians and bands are touring the world, sharing their music with a wider audience than ever before.  I’m curious to what or maybe why this all started (and I think it must have started way before Psy’s Gangnam Style).  I think it’s awesome and definitely amazing how this pop culture can become such a huge hit with an international audience.  It astounds me that audiences who may not even know the Korean language are still caught in this wave of pop culture.

3. the language


This reason didn’t become a prominent reason until I actually started learning the language this semester.  My first glimpse into the language was listening to the Korean dramas/ TV shows last semester but I didn’t fall in love with the language until I started speaking it.  Even now, I am hesitant to say that I speak the language, because I don’t—I’m still a beginner learner with a growing vocabulary.  Languages are difficult to learn but the reason, in high school, why I wanted to learn French was because it sounded gorgeous.  To this day, after six years of learning French, I still think it is a gorgeous language.  The Korean language is different.  When I speak Korean, the language makes me feel gorgeous (can I say that, does that make sense?).  I don’t know what it is.  It could be the way the words flow with one another, the way the lips and tongue move, or even the way there is no expression but so much expression at the same time.  Learning the language is one thing (which is what I am trying to tackle now) but experiencing the language would be amazing.

4. Advertising


This list is winding down but I could go on for quite a while.  South Korean advertising made it to my top 5 list because I am so intrigued by it.  What Americans call celebrities, Koreans call idols.  We can discuss idols a different day, but a lot of the advertising is done with an idol’s sponsorship.  It is persuasion at its best.  I mean, sure we have lots of celebrity sponsorships: Taylor Swift is promoting Diet Coke, Emma Stone is promoting Revlon.  But South Korea does their advertising with a different angle, a different style.  I’d love to figure it all out. (pic: Lee Min Ho with 바나나맛 우유)

5. Dramas/ TV shows


I have to put this on the list because it is what started it all.  Indirectly, my watching of You’re Beautiful began my research in looking into South Korea as a place to study abroad.  From there, I opened endless possibilities.  The more shows I watch, the more I find myself curious about what happened in this scene and why that character did that.  It ties back to Korean culture and tradition.  Obviously, everything one watches in the media is not true, but one has to filter some truth out of it.  The TV shows are filled with endless locations that people visiting the country can go to.  It is giving me several ideas of where to go when I have free time there. (pic: just finished Coffee Prince (커피프린스 1호점) last week)