In December 2016, I was going through newly published literary journals at a bookstore in Cambridge, MA. Among the stacks, I found a magazine I had never seen, called Monkey Business—a publication that introduces contemporary Japanese writings in English. I had imagined starting a similar project with Korean literature but never dared to do so, but this sparked my interest again. Shortly after then, I told my acquaintance that I was starting a web magazine. “It will be a rough but rewarding journey,” said I.
And it certainly was. It was a rough journey because making every step was a challenge. Recruiting contributors, coming up with a theme, finding and contacting writers, raising fund for the first issue, and navigating a banking system between South Korea and the United States…On top of that, I had and still have anxiety that I may not be able to continue this project much longer due to numerous practical issues. At the same time, it was a rewarding journey. I made connections with so many people who were willing to participate and make this project possible.
Since this is the first issue of the first volume, I want to acknowledge these enthusiastic and generous people. First, I must thank our translators, editors, and communicators whose names are shared below. They are the heart of Nabillera, whose contribution is vital to this project. I also want to thank the writers, Hwang Inchan, Lee Hye-mi, Lee Jong San, and Kim Um Ji, for trusting us and sharing with us their valuable works. Likewise, I cannot thank enough Wade A. Davis and Youjin Seo for making this project possible with their generosity. Although monetary support may sound peripheral to a project like this, their generosity is undoubtedly central to the release of Nabillera today. Lastly, I want to extend my thanks to my brother Chan for sharing his apartment and showing emotional support while I was on leave from school and preparing for this project.
In the Fall 2017 issue of Nabillera, we are featuring four award-winning writers who were born in 1988 and are now 30 years old in Korean age. As individuals who were born in the year of the Seoul Olympics, the symbolic shift from dictatorship to democracy, what do they think of the Korean society as of 2017? Also, how do they use the power and arts of language, storytelling, and poetry to share their perspectives? Nabillera is introducing two short stories and ten poems along with written interviews with these writers.
To introduce their works briefly, Kim Um Ji, in “The Radish,” narrates the twisted relationship between a woman and two Yeong-cheol—one her pet and the other her husband. One of the central themes of this story is the contention between being present and going missing. In “Proof You Were Protecting The World All Along,” Lee Jong San explores Eun’s world and the notions of intimacy and lacking. Hwang Inchan, in his five poems including “Washing a Myna,” renders small surprises he encounters in everyday life and provokes our thoughts with them. In “Unexpected Vanilla” and four other poems, Lee Hye-mi creates a poetic sphere by colliding and experimenting with seemingly contrasting senses.
Finally, I want to extend my gratitude to you, the readers of Nabillera. Without you, the magazine cannot fulfill its goal. Now, I hope you enjoy the first issue of Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature.
Shyun Jeong Ahn
Fall 2017’s contributors
Shyun Jeong Ahn
Sabine Etienne (US)
Soo Woo Nam (Korea)
*Photographs in the Fall 2017 edition are Creative Commons-licensed.