Send to

'Oh, Jejudo' by Hyun Ki-young among this year's Daesan Literary Awards winners

Nov. 6, 2023 - 18:29 By Hwang Dong-hee
From left: Poet Kim Ki-taek, novelist Hyun Ki-young and director Yi Yang-gu pose for a group photo during a press conference held in Seoul, on Monday. (The Daesan Foundation)

Novelist Hyun Ki-young became the oldest recipient of the Daesan Literary Awards Monday for his latest three-volume novel, "Oh, Jejudo” (Changbi Publishers), which narrates the whirlpool of Jeju Island myths and tales following the history of the island from the late Joseon period, the Japanese colonial period to the April 3 uprising and tragedy.

“I am quite embarrassed to receive an award at this age when I should be giving out (awards),” said the 82-year-old writer during a press conference held in Seoul on Monday.

“I think this award is an affirmation that I have worked hard to walk on the literary path. … I am proud that it is an award that recognizes the painful history of Jeju as an important part of Korea’s modern history.”

"Oh, Jejudo" by Hyun Ki-young (Changbi Publishers)

The Daesan Foundation announced the four winners, including Hyun, poet Kim Ki-taek, director Yi Yang-gu and translators Matthias Augustin and Kyunghee Park, for the 31st annual Daesan Literary Awards.

The organization gives out awards in four categories: the best works of poetry, novel, drama, literary criticism and translation. The winners each receive a prize of 50 million won ($38,600), and the three award-winning works in Korean will be reviewed for translation into other languages and publication overseas.

The award for the best work of drama or literary criticism is given on alternate years, while the award for the best-translated work is given to English, French, German and Spanish translations, one for each year in sequential order. This year the awards were made for the best drama work and best German translation.

A Jeju-born writer, Hyun is known for his literary exploration of the tragic massacre on Jeju through works like “Aunt Suni” (1978). His dedication to this subject led him to detention, torture and imprisonment during the authoritarian regime of former military strongman Park Chung-hee. The book was once banned for 14 years.

“The terrible tragedy on Jeju Island has been my (literary) burden, and I’ve come this far and put a full stop (with this novel).”

“Writing is about liberating one's inner self and becoming free, but after starting my career, I was weighed down by the history and trauma of the incident for a long time. I don’t know how much time I have left, but I plan to write about nature and natural humans.”

From left, “A Knife Called a Sickle,” “None Elected” and the German edition of "The Whale" (Moonji Publishing, Doosan Art Center, Weissbooks)

Poet Kim won the award with his poetry collection “A Knife Called a Sickle” (a literal translation of the Korean title, Moonji Publishing). One review called his work "sharply and firmly crafted by an attitude to withstand the weight of life.”

Half of the collection was written before the pandemic and the other half after, Kim said.

“I feel sorry for those who suffered during the pandemic, but on the other hand, I was fortunate to be able to spend some ‘lonely’ time alone. It helped me a lot in writing poetry," he said.

Director Yi, who wrote the script and directed the play “None Elected,” received the best drama work award for exploring social issues related to laws, labor and censorship. The play premiered in 2022 at the Doosan Art Center, and won the Baeksang Arts Awards last year.

The best work translated into German went to translators Augustin and Park for their co-translation of Cheon Myeong-kwan’s novel, "The Whale" ("Der Wal" in German).

The awards ceremony will be held Nov. 23 at Kyobo Building’s Convention Hall in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.