Magazine article World Literature Today

A Brief Conversation with Kyung UK Kim

Magazine article World Literature Today

A Brief Conversation with Kyung UK Kim

Article excerpt

Kyung Uk Kim (b. 1971, Kwang-ju, South Korea) earned his bachelor's in English and master's in Korean literature from Seoul National University. Since his debut story, "An Outsider," won the Writer's World prize for best new writer in 1993, Kim has published six story collections and five novels. One of the most prolific writers and astute observers of contemporary life in South Korea, Kim has received numerous prestigious literary awards such as the Hyundai and the Dongin prizes.

WLT: You have a story collection called Who Killed Kurt Cobain? Has American popular culture been a significant influence on you?

Kyung Uk Kim: "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?," an eponymous story included in the collection, is not about solving the mystery of the rocker who died too young. Rather, the story takes issue with late-capitalist society in which reality and its simulacra often change places. As with the T-shirts that have Che Guevara's face printed on them, late capitalism readily turns criticism against it into a commodity. I read this type of irony in the talented rocker's thunderous success and premature death, an irony that inspired this story.

American popular culture, film, and music, in particular, inspired me a lot in my twenties. Although it remains a source of inspiration, my interests are now largely in ironies embedded in American pop culture, exemplified by the life and death of Kurt Cobain. This is why I love the Coen brothers' work; it is studded with ironies glittering like jewels.

WLT: Is American popular culture generally influential in South Korea? Are these references commonly known there? …

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