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- I’m often asked, why would you move where there was a nuclear accident on purpose? I started writing novels when I was eighteen years old, and since then, in interivews, I’m always asked, “Why do you write? Who are writing for?” And I always answer, “I write for the people who don’t belong anywhere.” That might have roots in the fact, in the Korean War, my family left Korea and came to Japan, that my family has wandered from place to place, that I was expelled from school, so I come from a place of not belonging, and perhaps I started writing in order to make a place where I belonged in the world of novels and plays. That’s why I write for people who don’t belong.
- As a novelist, my job is to play a role as an endoscope to look inside of a person, while also showing him or her with an external camera.
- I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there’s the next, as you go on turning page after page, eventually you reach the last one. But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end.
- I think that the role of a writer is to listen to the voices of the voiceless. It’s my job to listen to the voices of the spirits of those who die in the midst of discrimination, poverty, and loneliness, unable to bring anyone’s attention to their suffering. We can’t save the dead, but by listening, we can give comfort to their spirits. By listening to their suffering, we can bandage their burning, bleeding skin, no matter how many tears that bandage might have or how patched together it might be.
- The word "interview" is written as taking material. If you come in contact with it like you want to take such material, it will be transmitted. So, instead of taking material, you are I think it's all about listening with the desire to know and listen to your story.
- My grandfather was born and raised in a small town called Miryang in Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea. He was a long-distance runner on the Japan National Team in Korea, which was then a colony of Japan. He was likely to get a spot on the team for the Tokyo Olympics, which was scheduled to be held in 1940, but then the Olympics was canceled due to World War II. The Korean Peninsula was liberated from colonial rule by Japan’s defeat in the war, but the joy of independence was covered over by ideological confrontations. Due to the Korean War that broke out in 1950, Miryang, where my grandfather’s family lived, became a battlefield where residents informed on and killed each other. My grandfather’s 23-year-old brother, who was a leader of the student movement, was hit in the leg while running in the schoolyard and taken away by the police; his whereabouts are still unknown. My grandfather was also accused of being a communist and was imprisoned, but just before his execution he broke out of jail and escaped to Japan on his own. My grandmother boarded a small fishing boat with her four children, including my mother, and smuggled them into Japan as refugees. When my grandfather, who due to the war ran off with just the clothes on his back and lived a life with what seem like constant emergency crash landings, realized that he had cancer and was going to die soon, he went back to the small town in Korea where he was born, and he died there at age 68.