Our Korean Literature Book Club: KBC Naehun
by Cristina Rosian December 1, 2023
Our story starts in the middle of the pandemic, in June 2020. Since we had to spend most of our days inside our homes, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Romania organized numerous online events for the Romanians who love Korea. One of the events was a Korean Literature Quiz, for which we had to read The Court Dancer by Kyung-Sook Shin (Dansul privighetorii de primăvară, tr. Diana Yuksel—Ed.). Thanks to this event, I had the chance to meet people from around Romania who were interested in Korean literature.
After this event, I remembered a wish I had since I was in my early twenties: to be part of a book club, where I can not only read books but also share and learn new things from different perspectives. Since the pandemic didn’t offer many options, I decided to ask my online friends if they would be interested in starting a Korean literature book club. Most of them were excited about the idea, so we had our first meeting in October 2020. Since then, we have been reading one book each month, and now—August 2023—we are reading our thirty-fifth book!
Our book club name is KBC Naehun. KBC stands for “Korean Book Club,” while Naehun is the first known book written by a female author in Korea, and since our group first consisted only of women, we found it to be the perfect name.
Looking back at the almost three years we have spent reading Korean literature together, I realized that we have learned to appreciate certain things, which I will shortly describe below.
We have come to value Korean literature translated into Romanian. One of our club members, Camelia—who wants to publish her Korea Travel Journal in the future—suggested we only read Korean literature that is translated into Romanian. This suggestion proved to be a great idea because it encourages us to purchase translated books, showing Romanian publishers that there are people interested in Korean literature. Since we are currently reading our thirty-fifth book, we sometimes struggle to find new titles to read, but we often share information about new releases, and we are more than delighted to discover new books. Our most recent discovery is the Romanian translation of I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee (Vreau să mor, dar vreau să mănânc tteokbokki, tr. Prodan Iolanda—Ed.), and we look forward to reading it!
Another thing we treasure is our mutual respect. Our book club consists of people from various ages, occupations and backgrounds, and during our meetings there are times when we hold different opinions regarding the books we are reading. But despite having contrasting ideas at times, we have learned to listen to each other, to consider other points of view, and to try to understand why certain people think the way they do. Every time we read a new book I wait with anticipation to hear what my book club friends have to share.
Last but not least, the relationship we have built is another thing we hold precious. Our book club started with about twelve members, but today we have about seven regular members. Even if the number got smaller, the appreciation we have for each other and the quality of our conversations got deeper. We even started a small tradition of meeting in person at least once a year. Whenever we meet, we try to incorporate Korean culture into our day: we eat Korean food, we visit Korean stores, we watch Korean movies, we share memories from our trips to Korea and look for Korean novels in our local bookstores.
Korean literature has been a very special part of our lives until now. It brings us joy every month and we hope that someday we will have the chance to hold our book club meeting somewhere under the Korean sky! Until then, we will continue to search for Korean novels translated into Romanian, to read them and to share and talk about the impact these books have on our ways of thinking and on our lives.
Cristina Rosian studied Korean language and literature for her Bachelor’s Degree and currently works as a copy-editor in a publishing house in her hometown, Medias, in Romania. She enjoys reading, playing with children, learning and teaching foreign languages, especially Korean. One of her dreams is to translate a children’s book from Korean to Romanian. She also enjoys doing Korean-Romanian interpreting for various events.
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