The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. Today we are talking with KANG Byoung Yoong, a novelist from Slovenia and South Korea.
I am KANG Byoung Yoong. I am a South Korean novelist, essayist, translator, academic, father, husband, and middle-aged joker living in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I spent my youth in Seoul and Moscow, pursuing a PhD in literature. I have published over 20 books in Korean, English, Russian, Slovenian, and Portuguese featuring themes of humour, fantasy, diversity, and social problems.
1. Hello! Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?
Before coming here, I had three goals. It would be great, if I could..
(1) become the first skateboarder-writer of the IWP programme.
(2) become the first boomerang thrower-writer of the IWP programme.
(3) write poems which I have seen and felt in Iowa.
I reckon that I have already completed the first and second missions.
To complete the third mission, now, I am writing poems about my life in Iowa. Actually, that is a huge challenge for me. Because I am a prose/fiction writer. It is said that poetry is the product of genius, and fiction is the product of hard work. I do want to prove in Iowa that a middle-aged joker who works hard with a happy heart (without genius) can write poems. Please support me.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
“Every day, I wake up at 7:26 am. And then, for 32 minutes I do gymnastics. (Health is the most important thing to become a good writer.) From 7:58 to 8:43 I have breakfast (Kimchi and rice). After 17 minutes of the morning espresso time, I write a novel from 9 to 12:04. It is my own routine.”
If you were expecting an answer like the one above, I am truly sorry. I am a writer without any routines. Sometimes, I do nothing else, only write a novel for a week. Sometimes I write a novel at a set time each day. I can be left-handed or I can be right-handed depending on the situation. Flexibility is my own routine. But, I can not recommend my routine to anyone who wants to become a good writer.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
While walking or riding a longboard, I listen to Tolstoy’s <What Men Live By and Other Tales>. (I don’t read it.) Listening to Tolstoy while feeling the Iowa River breeze is special and unique happiness, I am sure.
I love to read (academic) articles or books about Theresa Hak Kyung Cha while sitting on a bed in my room or on a campus bench. Cha was an American novelist, producer, director, and artist of South Korean origin. She was fluent in Korean, English, and French. In her works, she took language apart and experimented with it. I am reading Cha for my research in order to write an academic paper but I get my literary inspiration from Cha. And her life makes me think again and again about the life of a diaspora writer and my life. Because I am also a diaspora writer.
4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and/or your work?
I am sure that the readers and writers of Iowa City do not need to know about me and my work(s) because there are too many writers much better than me in this universe. But, if you are interested in one Korean writer who has used imitation and parody to create new forms and unfamiliar discourses, please feel free to contact me <firstname.lastname@example.org>, I am ready to introduce my literature in person (or on Zoom). Especially, one of my novels <My Itchy Middle Finger> which is translated into English (but is not published, yet) is waiting for editors, readers, and publishers. (This novel is about a high school baseball player who (one day, suddenly) got a new eye on the middle finger.)
5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I was born in Seoul, South Korea. But I live in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I think that I have two homes.
Regarding South Korea, I would love to share K-literature. The young in the world are interested in K-pop and K-drama but in my point of view, K-literature is the root of all of Korean pop culture. If you want to know which Korean author to read first, I can recommend Kim Young-ha and Han Kang who had been in Iowa as the IWP Residency Writers before me.
And in Slovenia’s case, the name of the country contains its characteristics. For me, Slovenia is slow-ness (from SLO-venia) and love from (s-LOVE-nia). They are lovely and are not in hurry. This social atmosphere is very important to me. Because in my opinion, a writer is a person who slowly looks at the world and finds love.
So, I who can read Korean literature in Slovenia every day am a lucky joker.
Thank you very much.