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Park Sang-young: A Novelist that the Whole World Is Watching

This year, Park Sang-young’s novel Love in the Big City was longlisted for the International Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world. Did you know that novelist Park Sang-young graduated from the Department of French Language and Literature and the Department of Media and Communication at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)? The Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to introduce Park Sang-young, the youngest ever Korean novelist nominated for the Booker Prize, introducing his representative two novels Love in the Big City and I Want to Be One-Dimensional.

Park Sang-young to Become a Novelist

Q1. Please introduce yourself.

Park Sang-young

Hello, I am Park Sang-young, a novelist. I studied French Language and Literature and Media and Communication at SKKU from 2007 to 2013. After having several jobs, I now live my life as a full-time writer. I have also made some television appearances, such as on the JTBC entertainment show Front Row in Your Room and the Watcha web entertainment show Join My Table.

Q2. Why did you decide to become a novelist?

I have always liked to read books and write since I was young. After graduating from college, I got a job in the press, thinking it would fit me. At that time, I learned that journalists are nothing but the medium that conveys messages between the world and the public, and I also realized that I want to express and show myself through my writing. Having thought about the most appropriate way to do that, I decided to become a writer. I thought the best way to express myself was to write novels. As a result, I quit my first job and dived into studying creative writing in graduate school to become a novelist. Since then, I have been writing non-stop.

Q3. Were there any experiences at SKKU that helped you write your books?

I am not sure if this subject is still available at SKKU. It was the required subject for freshmen, called Basics and Practice of Writing (current Creative Writing). At that time, the professor read my writing in front of all the other students, pointing it out as an excellent example. I had felt timid as I came to Seoul alone from the countryside, but it became the first experience that gave me strong confidence. My majors also come to mind. French Literature class introduced me to famous novelists Marguerite Duras, Milan Kundera, and Albert Camus for the first time, and in French Movie class, I learned about life as an artist and a writer by watching Jean Marie Maurice Scherer’s movies.

Park Sang-young’s Story

Q4. When you write, where do you get inspiration?

I get inspiration in overall daily life: YouTube video clips, news, talking with friends, dog meetings while walking, and so on. Everything can be source for a novel. My eyes are always blazing with interest, and sometimes I feel like I always live with my radar on. In Love in the Big City, there are many details that I really experienced. In particular, the scene where the main character sits at a library in the university, preparing for employment, but eventually browses novels to escape from reality depicted my actual experience. The scene where the character dates a guy at Naksan Park also came from my experience. In fact, dad jokes from my first novel collection Unknown Artist’s Tears and Zaytun Pasta were actually made by my friend.

Q5. What do you think is the most important thing in writing?

Love in the Big City (yes24.com)

For me, there are two important things in writing: do not belittle or discredit anyone and always make it fun. I think literature is the work of trying to make people understand emotions even though emotions are hard to be understood by others and cannot be confessed. With this belief, I try not to damage both others’ and my values, and I apply this rule very strictly when it comes to minorities, being extra-careful. Not expressing them as being pitiful or sad, I try to show multilayered lifestyles. Also, delicate records and universality are required in literature. Because the quantity of information is the base to achieve it, I also investigate and cover issues a lot.

Q6. There are various love stories in your novel Love in the Big City. What do you think “love” is?

Actually, it would be the main question in my life. I cannot make heads or tails of love, so I wrote Love in the Big City with the mind of exploring all emotions of it. Thus, my definition of love is Love in the Big City. This novel has four chapters, and I think every chapter shows different forms of love. All stories in the novel are probably the message I want to say toward society.

Q7. The humorous writing style stands out in Love in the Big City. Do you have any special reasons for using a humorous style?

Human Park Sang-young loves humor so much. Actually, there are more sad and oppressive things than happy things in life. I think smiling in sad moments is the only defense mechanism that I can have. Therefore, it seems that speech in my novel follows human Park Sang-young.

Q8. What did you use as the background for writing the novel I Want to Be One-Dimensional including stories about teenagers’ growth?

I Want to Be One-Dimensional (yes24.com)

In I Want to Be One-Dimensional, I expressed the idea that I want to be simple like the one-dimensional world that only has dots and lines. Teenage years remain immature and painful for everyone. As a writer and a creator, I certainly wanted to write stories of those times. Also, I wanted to deal with the 2000s when I was a teenager because public culture including literature had not dealt with the 2000s society. For example, the 2000s in Korea cannot be explained without the social media platform Cyworld. Based on Cyworld, I covered trends like excessively sentimental ballads and romantic narratives. Meanwhile, I also wanted to expose problems in schools in the 2000s with punishment, oppression, and school violence.

Q9. What does “writing” mean to you?

It was my hobby at first, then became my job to earn money, and now, it is a synonym for who I am. When I was young, my mother often read books to me before going to bed. Reading books and writing have naturally become my hobby over a long period of time. After becoming a novelist, writing has been my job. For a while, I tried to survive in the vast publication market. By the way, the meaning of writing novels to me changed a little after writing Love in the Big City and starting to be loved by many people. Since then, writing has developed two meanings to me. It became both a part of my being and a job to earn money. As I wrote I Want to Be One-Dimensional, I felt like recovering my bad memories when I was a teenager.

Future Park Sang-young

Q10. Please tell us your plans.

In July, a series of novels that include realistic stories like work-life and property will be published. I am out of broadcasting work after finishing Front Row in Your Room and Join My Table program seasons, but I will show you many works both in front of the camera and behind the camera in the future as I am preparing video content based on my novel. Also, I especially like the mystery and thriller genres. I am preparing the work, including elements of fantasy, so please look forward to me and my work.

Q11. How would you hope to be remembered by the public in the future?

When people think of me, I hope they describe me as “a writer who can always be trusted, funny, and infinitely free.” I want to be a writer who gives the feeling of affection like a friend whom people have met before.

Q12. Any last words for Kingos?

The spring day when I drank soju at Geumjandi Square, the summer when I wrote my cover letter alone on campus, and my 20s when I dated on the Law School’s rooftop and in Suseon Hall are coming into my head. I really wanted to freeze that time. I hope you enjoy your time at SKKU as much as I did.

홍채린  cinbrhn02@g.skku.edu

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