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Magazine Vol.64 Summer 2024 In this issue, we examine the rise of science fiction in South Korea, tracing its historical roots back to the early twentieth century and looking at some of its most salient writers. In the past few decades, South Korea has become a major player in global science fiction production, not only in the form of translated books but also OTT movies, games, and webtoons. In this climate of intense science fiction production and consumption, we thought it would be relevant to ask, “What is Korean about Korean SF?” Put differently, “Is there such a thing as Korean SF?” These are deliberately polemical questions aimed at uncovering the unique dynamism and power of Korean science fiction. The answers we received from literary critics Sang-Keun Yoo, Yang Yun-eui, and influential Korean SF author Kim Bo-young are also lively and polemical.

Featured Writer Continuing until We Become Our Outsides I still remember when I read your first collection, Reach the Extreme. I could feel the true, earnest love in those raw lines rife with determination, which made me check to see how old you were as they had filled me with awe. When I read the last line of that collection, “I hope I never get invited anywhere in this world, that my name does not remain after my death, that I may never be too close to the goings-on of the world, its everything, life, not-life, or suffering or desire or love, or what pierces me, that I should brush past them, my life and yours,” I knew I was going to read every poem and piece of prose of yours. A long time after that, when I became a poet myself and invited you to give a talk, I remembered that first collection again, and while poets become who we are through writing poetry, you made me realize you were already a poet before you ever wrote poetry. I’m now wondering what experience or thought first brought you to write poetry.

Featured Writer Ten Poems by Kim So Yeon Catalyzing Night Your boiling body I wipe with wet towels just as you’ve taught me and stay up all night

Featured Writer [Essay] Trust in Silence Living through COVID-19, a global pandemic, we all came to have a unique story of our own, one that could be shared with others. In 2020, the year marking the sweeping spread of the pandemic that upended the conventional human way of life, my own daily life didn’t change much. I read and write for a living, which I can do well enough without leaving the house or meeting people face to face. I continued to work from home as before, corresponding with my editors through email. The swimming pool I used to frequent daily closed down, though, so I spent more time walking instead, going out to the neighborhood park when it wasn’t crowded. The class I taught was switched to online at the start of the spring semester, but since the class was small, I invited the students to my place from time to time to have class and lunch together.

Cover Feature [Cover Feature] Korean SF Now When Netflix was first launched, I was able to watch nearly every new science fiction movie and series it offered. These days, however, it has become impossible to keep up with all the new SF content emerging across various streaming services. Aside from Netflix’s offerings, staying current with the latest SF content and all its subgenres (including novels, webtoons, comics, etc.) can easily take up a whole lifetime.

Cover Feature [Cover Feature] Every Possible Thing Bar One: Four Keywords for Recent Korean SF Korean SF has come of age, outgrowing the confines of its genre and spearheading narrative fiction. The Korea Publishing Marketing Research Institute identified the “SF surge” as an industry keyword of 2019, and the trend has only accelerated. How does one explain this Korean-style SF? To ask at the risk of simplification, does Korean SF form a regional, localized subset of SF, or does it carry unique traits as a variant?

Cover Feature [Cover Feature] Korean SF is Always Korean A while back, I received a request from an American magazine to write an essay on the topic of “works that influenced me as an SF writer.” The first works that came to mind were Herman Hesse’s Demian, Korean manhwaga Go Yoo Sung’s Robot King, manhwaga Kim Jin’s Blue Phoenix and Kingdom of the Winds, Japanese mangaka Tezuka Osamu’s Astro Boy. However, the scholar who translated my essay said that it would be better if I chose works that American readers would be familiar with. I said that if that was the case, I would introduce “works that I like” rather than “works that influenced me,” and, with only Hesse’s Demian remaining from my initial list, I selected Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix, Roger Zelazny’s Eye of Cat, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

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Korean Literature Now

INTERVIEW Interview with Kim So Yeon: Continuing until We Become Our Outsides by Lee Jenny

INTERVIEW Face to Face with Choi Eunmi by Jung Yong-jun

INTERVIEW Interview with Poet Yi Won: A Time for Diving In by Ahn Miok

FICTION Summer 1It started about a month ago.Something in my ear clanged open and shut every time I swallowed. I didn’t know what it was.The sound continued even when I chewed. In the early hours, I rubbed my ear in my sleep. In the morning, I could sense my left auricle and the heat inside my ear.When I rose from where I’d been lying, my head felt heavy.When I walked, my body seemed to list to the side. I bet it’s due to my ear.It’s my ear, it’s my ear. I chanted it like a spell. Nothing outside of my ear concerned me. For a month after A left the house, she didn’t keep in touch.If she contacts me, I’ll show her my ear. I’ll tell her she can turn the auricle inside out if she likes. I’ll take her hand and hold it to my ear. Warmer than my cheek, isn’t it? I’ll say.A told me she wanted a slightly different version of me. She didn’t want a different me. Just a slight change.I told her, You change first.What did she say then? Maybe she said, Okay, I will. Or maybe she said, Why should I?Whenever she had a meal, she’d take out the mayonnaise and squirt it around on her food.She squirted it onto scrambled eggs, ddeokgalbi, salad, and boiled potatoes.She’d also mix it into plain rice together with a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil. She spent four months at this house. It filled the spring.My you and your me.We also had this conversation. We were sitting at the foot of the bed.What am I to you?And what are you to me?The light was off in the room, but we could see everything there was to see.We slowly examined each other’s eyes, nose, lips, hands, feet, fingers, and toes.It seemed like our hands and feet were similar even if they were a different size.Perhaps we were brother and sister in a previous life.Or if not, the inner organs of sperm whales.You the heart, and I the liver. It could’ve been like that.  2The doctor stuck a long, thin steel tool in my ear.I was sitting in the examination chair with my head braced against the headrest. An enlarged image of my ear canal was visible on the monitor facing me. If you put water in flour and knead it and put water in and knead it again, what does it become? the doctor asked.Gooey dough, I answered.Yes, like earwax. The doctor began scraping and removing the buildup, and inside my ear, the noise was terrific. I recoiled and winced. At some point a nurse appeared. It’s all right. You’re in good hands. Don’t worry, she said, patting me on the thigh. She looked to be past middle age, her hair gray with a few brown strands. She was wearing a purple cardigan.How is it? Is the sound still muffled? the doctor asked me.I tried a few vocalizations. Ah. Ah. I rose from the examination chair, setting my feet on the tiled floor and standing up.My back was damp. Maybe I’d been sweating during the procedure. I tried rotating my head and walking on the spot to test if my head was heavy, or if my body was leaning to one side. I couldn’t yawn properly, but I tried. I also tried clicking my teeth together a couple of times to find out if the sound was still ringing on the inside. I couldn’t tell whether my hearing was clear or muffled.At any rate, it’s not back to normal. You have some inflammation of the eardrum. The doctor proceeded with his explanation after showing an image of my eardrum next to a normal one on the screen. Mine was a little thicker and redder.I’m giving you a prescription for antibiotics. Take the medication and come back on Friday, the doctor said.The nurse beside me said it was time to go.I paid for my consultation, pushed open the glass door and left the clinic.The hot stuffy air in the hallway wafted against my face.I went into Yang’s Pharmacy directly next door.It was bright and spacious. The light coming from the ceiling fixtures was neither too blue nor too yellow.The pharmacist went by the name of Yang Yu-jin.She stood there wearing a plastic name badge with her name on it.Yang Yu-jin was always alone behind the counter.Was she a few years younger, or my age exactly?Perhaps she was 5 or 8 centimeters taller than me.Generally speaking, she was lanky and pale. Her head appeared to be big and solid.She always widened her eyes a little when she assisted me. Her eyes were both fierce and affable.I wonder why she left an impression on me.This person, and that one, making one kind of impression or another, it tired me out.You’ve been to the ENT specialist today, she said, taking my prescription.Yes, I replied.She lined up fifteen little sachets across the counter with three pills in each: a painkiller, an antibiotic, and a pill for stomach ailments.She went over them, and concluded, You’ll have to reduce your stress level.Yes, I said, turning and walking out. Just as I was approaching the glass door, Yang Yu-jin called out to me and I stopped.Take this, she said, proffering a warm bottle of Ssanghwatang. 3Pretend I don’t exist. A buried her face in her hands. You do. In fact, you’re very real, I thought, looking at A in front of me.How can something stop existing?Take this. A held out the thin thread-like necklace she’d been wearing and dangled it in front of me.What’s that to me? I asked.Take it and put it on. I think it’ll suit you. A fastened around my neck what had just been around hers.I bent my head forward slightly. I felt the cold, light weight of the chain and the brush of her fingers on the back of my neck.A and I walked together toward the only mirror in the house. She went first, and I followed behind.The sound of our steps on the wooden floor was somehow magnified. We stopped in front of the mirror and looked. My neck and the nape of my neck, my face and hair, my wrinkles and blemishes.It suited me just as A had predicted. It’s platinum, she said.She rested her whole palm on the nape of my neck.Now if something amusing happens, who can I tell? And who can I talk to about something sad and stressful?Tears streamed down A’s face.I looked in the mirror at the image of her crying. What’s wrong? I asked,But she didn’t answer.I looked at the image of myself standing there wearing A’s necklace.I stood there awkwardly with my arms hanging down.Whenever I made eye contact with myself in the mirror, I felt distressed.   Shall we go somewhere? I asked her.How about going to the supermarket, or a bookshop? We could buy something new. Even just talking about something new would distract us. They’re too far away, she said. 4I was far away, and I had to take the bus home.While waiting for the right bus, I drank the Ssanghwatang I’d got at the pharmacy. It was hot and sweet.I lived in a remote place, far from anywhere else. To get to a café or playground, school or clinic, I had to take a bus or walk for twenty to thirty minutes.I had to walk along a dirt path or a narrow two-lane street.I always wanted to be farther away.It was difficult, even impossible, to just be mentally distant.I needed to physically distance myself from everyone and everything. I left the place I’d rented securely for five years and signed a contract to live somewhere a little further from the outskirts.No one was curious about my move; neither did they try to dissuade me.A was amused.Do people really reside there? At that time, A used the polite language form to address me.Yes. I will attempt it myself. I used the polite form, too.We didn’t have any trouble conversing even when we were formally addressing each other. A didn’t talk too much, but she talked enough.  Sudden gabbiness from people who were quiet, sudden quiet from talkative people, extreme quiet from people who’d merely been quiet, volubility from people who’d merely been talkative—the people I met generally knew no moderation. Either they nattered on, or they kept their mouths shut, expressionless, the whole time they were facing you.A was someone who both spoke and kept quiet in moderation.I did not feel any discomfort with the way she talked or with the timing of her silences.She was the only person who asked about my new place. I told her all about it.The living room doubles as a kitchen with a large window that takes up most of the wall. It faces north, but it’s bright.There are two rooms and one bathroom.The walls are white, the wooden floor is brown, and there’s no bathtub.It has a large yard and my contract will last for two years.Are you having a housewarming party? A asked.I’ve got to, I said.There were some old, deserted houses at scattered intervals around my neighborhood.Empty lots outnumbered the houses that were inhabited.Weeds grew in every lot. They flattened easily in the wind and rain, and then one day they’d rise anew. Small flowers like grains of rice bloomed at their tips, and on sunny days I could see their bright luster.On clear days it was eye-piercingly bright, and on overcast days, the surroundings were dark.There were spiderwebs around wherever you looked.Among the weeds, between branches, between the railings and the ground, in sunken hollows in the earth.I loved seeing dew on the spiderwebs.Aren’t you scared of living here? A asked.Living here—these words sounded so strange. When she first visited my home, A’d shown a lot of interest in it. She said it was magical, free, and fascinating, and not just the house, but the road leading up to it, the view of the low mountain in the distance and the dirt road. The things you stepped on whenever you walked, the big and small pebbles along the way, the refreshing breeze dancing in if you opened all the windows in the house, the sounds of the leaves rustling and the bugs you’d never heard of before, and the light and the shadows.Scared? What’s scary about it? I asked her.A listed all kinds of scary things.It was strange because nothing she listed seemed scary to me. How can you not be scared of anything? I’m starting to hate you, A said angrily.You’re so unfeeling, she sighed.What about you? How can you say you’re a feeling person when you put mayonnaise on everything you eat? I asked her with a smile. I wasn’t meaning to pick a fight. I said it hoping she’d laugh.But I don’t think she was amused. A and I decided to go out.We decided to have some coffee at a cafe and break up for good.It was a twenty-minute walk to the nearest coffee shop.In this twenty-minute span, I expected she’d change her mind.I couldn’t make A change her mind. Not even twenty minutes could do it, and when we arrived at the coffee shop, she still thought the same.It seemed as if something was settled in her mind. She didn’t appear to be looking at me but at the glass behind me.You seem to have made up your mind about something, but what? I asked.The truth of our relationship, she answered.What truth? I asked.She didn’t reply.Her eyes were almost closed in response to the sun streaming through the glass exterior of the coffee shop. I bet I looked like a shadow with the window behind me.I wanted to ask her if she could see my expression. We left the coffee shop and walked down a nearby alley.After a while, we sat down on a bench at a school’s playing field.The sun was about to set.It’s getting dark, so why don’t you stay over? I asked her.No. Over the next week, I’m going to collect my things and leave for good, A said.I didn’t want this to happen. At the same time, I wondered whether it’d really take a week. The few things she had would only take a single trip. Even if I brought to mind all her clothes, make-up, books, stationery supplies, and other sundry items, it seemed like there’d only be enough to fill a ramyeon box.A got up abruptly from the bench as if she were really leaving.Will we meet again? I asked. You go find your own happiness, A answered.Happiness? Oh, whatever, I said. By the time I’d said it, A had already turned her back on me and disappeared. So I was the only one to hear those words. Even after she was completely gone, I sat there a little longer.I sat for a long time, as if someone was pushing down on my shoulders and I couldn’t get up. The playing field slowly darkened, and the seesaw and the iron bars and the small number of trees there all turned the same color in the darkness. What kind of tree is that? Watching the leaves and branches sway, I wondered if it wasn’t time for me to go home.Alone, I walked five times around the playing field.My speed increased as I walked, so that by the last lap, I was almost running.5I feel like there’s still something there, B said, as if he knew all about my situation.I can tell by your face. B looked at me with a smile.We were surrounded by thick smoke from the grilling meat. B’s words were buried in all the noise.He asked about my ears. So they’re fine now?I thought, Yeah. My ears, they were uncomfortable until just three mornings ago.But now look. I’d gone and forgotten about them.How could I forget so easily?From day one, I hadn’t taken the medication. Where had I put it? I hadn’t thrown it away. I’d even gotten that Ssanghwatang.B flipped the meat over in front of me and chewed it noisily before washing it down with some soju.Something kept spraying me in the face.Like grease from the meat, or drops of soju, or B’s spit.The doctors said my eardrums weren’t normal. Were they normal now?I recalled the doctor telling me to come back on Friday.That would be tomorrow.Did I have to go? It didn’t seem necessary.Look. It’s too bad. Call her. I think she’ll answer. B seemed entertained by my plight.Is this amusing to you?Yes, B said.B was going through a divorce, but he didn’t bring it up.He appeared to be absorbed in my story, giggling. He didn’t look at all like someone going through a divorce. I wasn’t curious about how he felt during the divorce or how it happened, or even why he considered my situation amusing.B had been chattering excitedly, but as time wore on his expression became gloomy, and when we had finished our food and drink, he was crying.Even so, I loved her, B said, in a tone of confession.He said he didn’t want to get divorced.If you love her then why did you do that, I muttered.I don’t know the answer myself, B said.So you loved her, but what are you going to do now? I asked him.I really don’t know. I don’t know, B replied.He was pretty drunk, so he asked if he could stay the night at my place.I refused.He asked again and I refused again.B and I decided to part ways before midnight.He called a designated driver service. I felt like walking a little.I estimated it would take me an hour to get home. B fell asleep in the passenger seat of his car, and I began walking.I walked for ten minutes, and the rows of lit-up signs and the hustle and bustle disappeared.I walked a little farther and the damp smell of the earth and the scent of the chestnut blossoms became heavy in the air. I heard the frogs and the toads croaking. The sound was a continuous bombardment, like that of falling raindrops. I didn’t see anyone out there, but then I saw the outline of a person. It was so dark that I couldn’t tell if I was seeing them from the front or the back. After walking a little more I could tell I was viewing them from behind.I thought I recognized them. It was Yang Yu-jin. Was it really her?I’d never seen her from the back.No, on second thought, I might have seen her more frequently from the side and the back.The longer I walked, the more certain I felt.It was her limp hair and her long gangly frame.She was holding something in her hand. Was it Ssanghwatang? I wondered.I almost called out to see if it was really her, but I didn’t.I walked slowly, letting her get farther away.  6Am I allowed to swim? I asked the doctor.I was sitting with my head against the headrest of the examination chair.The doctor poked the long, thin steel tool in my ear and studied it this way and that.The eardrum is still red. The infection hasn’t gone away yet. If you really have to swim, make it short, the doctor said.People’s ears aren’t made to be submerged in water, he continued.Is he mad now? I wondered.I wanted to see his face, but I couldn’t turn my head. I was told that if I moved my head I could get hurt.The human ear, the human body—they’re not empty vessels. They’re not made to hold water. He seemed to be scolding me.Then what is the ear made for? I asked him.Could he answer that?It didn’t seem like he knew much. He was just good at poking instruments around in the ear. Human eyes, noses, and lips were all made for a reason, the doctor answered without really answering.Do you swim a lot? he asked.It’s not that, I said.He issued me a prescription for three days worth of antibiotics. He said that if there was no discomfort, I didn’t have to come back.The elderly nurse was wearing the same cardigan as before. With a nod, she indicated that it was time for me to go.  7A packed her bags in one go and never came back.Her belongings appeared from time to time.In the morning, things that hadn’t been there like plastic bracelets and earrings, hairpins, hand cream and fuzzy socks, popped up here and there around the house as if someone had come and deposited them there.I got a clear acrylic box, put all of A’s things inside, and set it on the kitchen table. From 1 until 4 pm, the box shone in the incoming sunlight. At 6 o’clock, light passing through the box formed pieces of rainbows on the white wall. I sat at the table facing the wall.When I sat at the table eating my meals looking at A’s belongings piled haphazardly inside the transparent box, I thought of her eyes, her nose, and her lips. Sometimes she smiled, but more often she was expressionless. Was it so?  Many things seemed to have already faded. There were only uncertainties. I stopped eating and pulled the acrylic box from the side of the table over in front of me.I stroked the smooth surface of the box. Bright light reflecting off the box dazzled my eyes.I thought, what should I do with this box and its contents? I recalled the things that A said had scared her—things connected to the house. The stillness within the house, the things that brushed against the windows, and the mysterious bursting sounds. And also her parents, A compared her parents to rotten flesh that had to be removed from her body without anaesthesia. And the things she couldn’t shake off—the anger she had inside. The recurrent dream she had of riding a high-speed elevator up high and then crashing. The future she seemed to have seen. Occasionally, she talked about our future. She said, You don’t comfort me at all, and the you she spoke of was me. You don’t say anything. When A said this, what had I said in reply?Perhaps I said, What? I’ve talked a lot.Or perhaps I said, I’ll talk more from now on. 8The doctor said people were not empty vessels.But I didn’t mind being an empty vessel.I’d actually like to be one, if I could.Above the pool, in the middle of the ceiling, was a heavy square glass pane. On bright days, light streamed down from it.The pool had a glass wall facing out on a mountain. While swimming underwater, I saw patterns of light rippling along the blue tiled floor. If I were an empty vessel, I could hold them too.I swam fifteen laps mostly underwater, hardly coming up for air.After swimming like that for so long, I was dizzy and almost gagged.My throat burned I was so thirsty.  In the shower room, I realized that the thread-like necklace had disappeared. When I was washing myself to a slippery shine, I felt there was nothing hanging from the nape of my neck. I checked the drain in the shower stall but didn’t see anything.I went to the change room and checked inside the locker as well. I put on my swim trunks and cap and goggles once more. I began a lap in the swim lane. I sliced through the water, looking only at the bottom of the pool. I was swimming for so long that it seemed I’d learned how to breathe underwater.Maybe with my ears. It seemed like I was breathing with my ears.  The whistle sounded. Everyone left the water.I did too.Outside the window, the mountain was getting wet.When did it start to rain?Outside the window, the rain sprayed like it was scattering in the air instead of falling.The mountain grew a little darker in the spray. For a long time, I looked blankly at the mist in the air and above the mountain. I couldn’t find the necklace.I returned to the shower stall and had a hot shower.To get home, I’d have to walk for forty minutes, or take a cab or two buses.The rain didn’t seem to be letting up. My faraway house was removed from everything. It was also removed from romance.I probably expected something when I moved into this faraway house. What? I wondered.A had maybe expected something of me.What? I was drenched all over waiting to catch a taxi in the rain.The things I was wearing stuck to my body and felt like skin. Trucks splashed through the water as they passed, making a terrific noise. How long will I have to stand here? I thought, waiting for a taxi to come.As I was waiting, the mist slowly drifted closer.The visibility was so poor that even if a taxi appeared in front of me, it would be a blur.Where is the necklace now?The thin thread-like one.That didn’t break, and barely held together. I imagined it somewhere in the water of a swimming pool I didn’t know.  9My ear was itchy and hot through the night. 10It seemed like the rainy season had already begun, as the rain didn’t stop.At the desk of the ENT, “Shape of My Heart” was playing.The elderly nurse was humming to herself. Maybe she didn’t see me push open the door and come in.Or maybe she didn’t care if anyone came or went.Was the doctor her son? I wondered.I approached the desk.She recognized me and smiled.“Shape of My Heart” kept playing, like a soundtrack. Even the auricle is red now. You must have had a tough night, the nurse said, in a worried tone.Yes, I replied.There were no other patients waiting.I went straight into the consulting room and faced the doctor.The doctor poked a large dab of clear, toothpaste-like gel into my ear. My ear, and my head as well, felt as if it was filled with a cool, heavy substance. Whatever you do, avoid touching your ears, the doctor said.Okay, I said.When did it start getting worse? the doctor asked. And what have you been doing recently?  he went on.I didn’t tell him everything that had happened.Suddenly. Last night it started getting worse, I answered.Even while I was having this simple conversation with the doctor, I could hear “Shape of My Heart,” on repeat, and the patter of the rain. After he put the gel in my left ear, every sound became muffled. My body leaned to the side as I walked towards Yang’s Pharmacy.I felt so drowsy that it seemed like I was already half asleep as I walked. I held out the prescription and met eyes with Yang Yu-jin. By any chance, were you out walking alone a few days ago? I don’t know. She looked uncertain.She disappeared into the lab at the back.I sat down on the green sofa placed there for customers. I ran my palm over the green sofa, made of fake leather that felt almost like vinyl.Looking up, I counted the number of light fixtures in the ceiling.I was dazzled by the light, and my head felt heavy.Maybe I was coming down with a cold.The tip of my nose tingled, and I felt a chill. How’s it going? I began to text.I’m sorry, I wrote and then deleted it.Your things, I wrote and deleted it.Mayonnaise, I wrote and deleted it. The necklace, I wrote and deleted it.These days, my ears, I wrote. Yang Yu-jin walked out of the lab and turned on the air conditioner in the corner.It’s summer, I wrote.  Translated by Kari Schenk

COLUMNS [Book for You] My guilty pleasure, BL Dramas (On a boat at sea) [Heo Gyun]What a beautiful day it is, Sister. A great day for a book recommendation, I’d say. [Heo Nanseolheon]That’s right! It completely slipped my mind… Oh, looks like the letter’s coming in now. [Heo Gyun]This letter’s come all the way from Egypt.  [Heo Nanseolheon]Let’s take a look.   Dear Team Heo,I grew up in a conservative household.But when I was in high school, I stumbled upon a BL TV series and got hooked. I started watching more in secret.But I couldn’t share my new interest online.Things are different now, because I’ve met a group of supportive friends. We talk about our favorite shows together,and even share recommendations. Still, I can’t bring myself to share this guilty pleasure with others just yet.Should I do something about it?—Noono   [Heo Gyun]BL…Keeping that secret must’ve weighed heavy on her heart. [Heo Nanseolheon]That’s for sure. Not to mention the constant worry that her parents might find out…  [Heo Gyun]Right!Let’s start fishing. Ah, Dear My Bias by Ryu Shieun. [Heo Nanseolheon]That title alone is really something. [Heo Gyun]This is a story about otaku just like Noono. The narrator goes to an idol performance.There she meets a young woman with green hair, who strikes up a conversation upon seeing her phone wallpaper. Having scrutinized me carefully, Green Hair leaned forward and asked furtively:“Unni, we’re in-laws, right?”“Excuse me?” “Well, you’re a Hobil shipper too, aren’t you? Everyone knows this photo. Hobin and Jinil? No?”   —Ryu Shieun, Dear My Bias (p. 15) They say one otaku attracts another. It turns out both the narrator and Green Hair have a soft spot for the Hobin and Jinil pairing, commonly known as ‘Hobil.’ Isn’t it funny how two peopleimmediately become “in-laws”when they realize their top two favorites overlap? [Heo Nanseolheon]What a rare and precious connection. [Heo Gyun]The two geek out over a beer until late into the evening. When Green Hair says she plans to spend the night at a 24-hour café, the narrator convinces her to share her hotel room, where they both get a hot shower and a good night’s rest. The next morning, they buy matching outfits before parting ways. [Heo Nanseolheon]It seems to me that Noono’s connection with her friends is like the narrator’s with Green Hair. The friends who support Noono’s passionate love without trying to change her feel like her haven, just like the safe shelter the narrator provides for Green Hair. [Heo Gyun]I see Noono’s gratitude toward her friendsreflected in the image of Green Hair waiting for the narrator to wake up with a freshly bought morning coffee in hand. You know as well as I do, don’t you, that you can’t click like this right away with just any friend? [Heo Nanseolheon]Of course. So it’s my turn now! I’ve caught “A Poem Good for Your Health” by Ko Seonkyeong, featuring a poet-cum-narrator and her mother. My mom is always wondering about the potency of things—the potency of blueberries,the potency of tomatoes,the potency of gardenias. I obsess over the potency of kindness,or the potency of poetry. Affection and gazes filled with warmth and attention…think you want them? […] But Mom, do you see?They see me and laugh. The reason Mom eats blueberriesis because blueberries are good for the eyes—Bullshit. Mom just likes blueberries. —Ko Seonkyeong, Shower Gel and Soda Water  The narrator does not believe there’s any ‘pathos, kind gazes, or warm attention’ in her poetry. In fact, some people even mock her work. Still, she considers her poem to be ‘good for the health.’ [Heo Gyun]Efficacy and health… [Heo Nanseolheon]Noono, don’t you think that healthy peoplecan have their own preferences? And doesn’t having those preferences make you healthier in turn? The poet’s mother “just likes blueberries.” There’s no reason for your preferences, so just like what you like. Isn’t that what a truly healthy preference is?  [Heo Gyun]That’s right, there’s no shame in liking something. Noono, I’d like for you to focus on the people with whom you can safely share what you like, not the people you have to hide it from. That way, couldn’t you one day be a safe space for your friends when they share their own special preferences? [Heo Nanseolheon]Absolutely!There’s no need to reveal your secrets to everyone! Doesn’t everyone have their own private story? It’s enough for you to open up when you feel it’s safe to do so. Having definite preferences is a testamentto your health in both mind and body. I hope you can share your healthy preferences with your healthy friends to your heart’s content! [Heo Gyun]Make sure this gets there in one piece! [Heo Nanseolheon]Right then, let’s get going again!  Translated by Jean Kim 

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