LGBT+ social movements have been active and vibrant in South Korea, and the year 2017 was especially noteworthy. It was the first time the issue of LGBT+ rights was discussed—favorably or not—during the presidential election. Queer culture festivals, originally hosted only in Seoul and Daegu, spread to other cities, making the Korean LGBT+ community widely visible. In 2018, three more cities are joining the wave, and different expressions of LGBT+ identities are being celebrated through events like the first Seoul Drag Parade. As the editor of Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature, I am more than glad to contribute to these exhilarating changes by sharing queer Korean literature with the global community.
In the Spring 2018 issue of Nabillera, we are featuring four award-winning writers who have published works related to gender and sexuality. Their works effectively address the following questions: How are different genders and sexualities positioned in contemporary South Korean society? How are queer lives translated into the literary arts and into an aesthetic discourse? While individual literary work does not necessarily represent the all-encompassing picture of Korean LGBT+ communities, what and how writers write is still an important resource for understanding the lives of queer Koreans on a personal and societal level.
An Boyun, in “A Relatively Peaceful Day of Yours,” brings up the story of an intersex person, whose identity is constantly denied, erased, and shoved around by the violent gender dichotomy of society. Che Ho-ki, in his five selected poems from Sad Gay, explores the aesthetic aspects of annihilating oneself and taking up the lives of loved ones by changing one’s gender. Kim Bi, in her story “Transgender Basketball Club,” candidly and powerfully narrates the experience of a transgender individual and their gender reassignment surgery. In his five selected poems from Glory Hole, Kim Hyun experiments with the form of poetry while perceptively discussing the meaning of being gay and the related political and social issues.
Lastly, as I am not the sole contributor to the magazine, I want to acknowledge and thank the people who have made this issue possible: the translators and editors, whose names are shared below. The writers and poets, who were so generous to entrust their works to us and spare time for our written interviews. Photographer Kim Min Soo and Daegu Queer Culture Festival, who kindly shared photographs from their festival in 2017. And finally, I want to thank readers who have patiently waited while the publication was delayed. Now that the second issue of Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature is released, I hope you enjoy these writings and translations.
With best regards,
Suhyun Jeong Ahn
Spring 2018’s contributors
Suhyun Jeong Ahn