Are there science fiction and fantasy in South Korea?
- Yes. but still, do you really need to read science fiction and fantasy in South Korea? That’s questionable. Because TV news is a like a science fiction fantasy given out for free in real-time in South Korea.
South Korea as military science fiction
At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, after eating lunch, I’m dozing off whilst listening to the news that Kim Jong-eun has just fired a missile over Japan. (I can’t help myself feeling sleepy, vaguely aware that people in Japan are watching ‘the missile flying horror show’ on live TV at that moment.)
Of course, I am deeply concerned that our neighboring country is in state of shock. and we are in state of shock, too.
Growing threats against Japan means that their Self Defense Forces may try to come over to Korea and stay there to defend THEIR safety, maybe forever? Not great news for Koreans.
At 8 Pm, I eat Gimbap (Korean fast food), working late in the office whilst listening to a conversation between China, Japan, the USA, and Russia about whether they must bomb North Korea tomorrow.
For reference, I live in Seoul, South Korea’s capital city. It takes just an hour to get to North Korea by car. Talk of bombing North Korea is talk of bombing my house.
In this case, I have no room to think about the fact that if another war breaks out in South Korea, there’s a high possibility of it starting World War 3. Or it will just simply stop the the world (65% of memory chips are made in South Korea, as well as LCD’s etc.)
This will bring the opportunity for president Trump to win a Nobel Prize for make pre-war show and quieting North Korea in time. An additional prize will be an astronomical amount of money paid by South Korean for US military equipment. It’s a great advantage to him. Wanna bet?
South Korea as dark fantasy
But I think it’s better than last year. Last winter, I had a flu for weeks because I was attending candlelight protests in the cold every Saturday, calling for the impeachment of a president (the daughter of a murdered dictator) who let her friend (the daughter of the pseudo-religious leader of a shamanist cult) get deeply involved in the country’s politics.
I feel like I was living in a science fiction/fantasy world; It felt like this modern democracy had momentarily gone back 2000 years (Teleportation, one might say) to a witch-led theocracy.
Millions of people gathered at Gwanghwamun Plaza every weekend to welcome Christmas Eve and the New Year. There was no rubbish, and no one got hurt, it was a large-scale but peaceful protest. A country that lives with the constant threat of war having a large-scale, peaceful protest for six months?
The event, which seemed only possible in the far future or like something from a science fiction novel, was reported worldwide. South Korea becomes one of the world’s interesting newsmakers that news reporters treasure.
How did the Korean Wave influence Korean science fiction?
Does living in the real time science fiction world mean that there is no interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres? Well, you want to know whether science fiction in Korea is popular? The answer is YES!
The Korean news might give you more goose bumps than The Exorcist (1973), and be more interesting than Season 1 of Game of Thrones. Even so, maybe that’s why this is possible. There is a Korean wave (an increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990’s).
The Korean Wave is spreading beyond Asia to Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and the continental U.S. In this year’s billboard music chart.,Kpop group BTS ranked number 1, above Justin Bieber.
Thanks to the Korean Wave, many South Korean science fiction or fantasy TV dramas and movies are receiving attention both domestically and internationally. My Love From The Star (2013), for example, has reached 5.4 billion downloads in one year in China alone, and a remake rights to the U.S. are being promoted.
Some of South Korean science fiction dramas and movies are being pushed for American remakes. The remake rights of the science fiction drama Nine (2014) were sold to the U.S., and the movie A Love Story (2000) was reinvented in Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves’ The Lake House (2006). A remake of the KBS drama Good Doctor which aired in 2013, is about to air on U.S. network ABC. The Gift of God remake entitled Somewhere Between has been airing on ABC TV every week since July. It is a gripping story where a mother returns to the past, before her daughter is murdered, and is given a chance to save her, and all the surprises and action that arise in the process provide a roller coaster of emotions for viewers.
The drama W tells the story of a webtoon character who fights with the author who created him, and comes out into the real world only to fall in love with the author’s daughter.
Science fiction directors Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Okja) and Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) are showing the world their brilliance. Based on their popularity, Korean TV dramas and movies are experimenting with no limits on subject matter, and science fiction devices are no exception. Many of the Korean TV dramas currently being broadcast borrow and experiment with various science fiction and fantasy devices.
Statistics show that nearly 20% of dramas made in Korea in 2017 contain SF ideas. This rate goes much higher when their target audience is young people..
Remake of the KBS drama ‘Good doctor,’ which aired in 2013, is about to air on U.S. network ABC.
South Korean audiences, readers
At the same time as it exports its culture, Korea has become one of the world’s largest consumers of movies, games, and web comics (Hollywood holds premieres in Korea and sends actors to promote movies in Korea directly so as not to miss Korean audiences)
Could living life as if every day is the last be related to this phenomenon? I don’t know. This goes back 2,000 years ago. According to the Chinese old book of Later Han on East Neighbour (AD25~220 後漢書 東夷傳) ‘The East neighbour (Koreans) are popular for enjoying dancing and singing activities’. So, I guess it was a long habit of Koreans to be interested in entertainments. We would like to consider ourselves as peace loving and art loving people. Karaoke is found in every corner of Korea, and poems are written on subway doors. Probably there are more poets in Korea than the rest of the world (officially 20,000 poets are registered at writers associations of Korea.)
Korea is proud of the fact that we never invaded another country nor were colonized by one (except for the brief 45 years of Japanese colonization in the 19th century, force to abandon our culture and language, an embarrassing moment in 5,000 years of Korean history)
We can also see this from a different perspective. The economy of South Korea is the 11th largest in the world. South Korean people tend to spend money for great experiences. Spend good time at beach? Hmmm…that’s an ideal situation. But reality is far from the ideal. South Korea has high population density.
As well as Seoul, with its population of 10 million, the populations of Busan, Daegu and various other cities are way over 3 million. This is not the traditional countryside but a modern metropolis where people live narrowly crowded into the city. There are only a few parks available, so you must fill your free time with various cultural activities… .
This active pattern of consumption means Korea is moving towards a positive understanding and enjoyment of rather new and strange science fiction and fantasy. Given the fact that the country is where thousands of years of tradition mixed with several decades of dizzyingly rapid modernization, both fantasy pasts and science fiction futures have become familiar to us.
South Korean Science Fiction Fandom
The science fiction fandom started to grow in the 1990s. Science fiction critics and writers Park Sang-joon (Seoul Science Fiction Archive) and Go Jang-won showed themselves to the world, and Jeon Hong-sik (Science Fiction Library) is active in fandom.
Living in the country where the peace is intimately tied with the politics of world peace, an export-driven economy, South Korea enjoys a life of vibrant global cultural exchange where half of the population travels abroad every year. For Koreans, the world is not a strange place but a big family. And we are aware that all countries must cooperate to solve global problems.
With such a cultural background. Korean writers and fans are active in such cultural exchange themselves. SFFD is not limited to introduce not only Korean science fiction on their website but also plan to introduce science fiction works from more than 50 nations. (If you would like to introduce your SF works and writers from your country. Write us at )
According to SFFD: (SFFD: www.sffd.co.kr), World’s first Global SF works database, a platform where SF fans around the world can interact together online 24-7)
People are confronting complicated global issues nowadays. More and more people from worldwide drawn to SF imagination solutions and proposals to these problems. SF idea may provide pure logic and creative ideas to these problems.
2017 is the year when Koreans officially participated in Worldcon for the first time (Worldcon 75 in Finland). Art Council Korea (a special art funding organization entrusted to the South Korean Ministry of culture, tourism and sports ) provided funds for Korean SF writers and a SF critic to attend Worldcon.to develop Korean culture. This fact was also reported by South Korean national media, and people from all walks of life are showing interest in an international exchange and the development of Korean science fiction.
I am sure that Koreans will continue to read, watch, and create more science fiction fantasy, and will be hoping for even more cultural exchange.