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A Guide to South Korean Science Fiction: Readymade Bodhisattva and Beyond


Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction




If you are looking for some fresh and exciting science fiction stories, you might want to check out Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction. This book is the first book-length English-language translation of science and speculative fiction from South Korea, bringing together 13 classic and contemporary stories from the 1960s through the 2010s. The stories range from dystopian, cyberpunk, postapocalyptic, psychological, humorous, satirical, magical realism, cosmic, steampunk, space opera, to hard science fiction, offering a diverse and rich sampling of the genre in South Korea.




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The book is edited by Sunyoung Park and Park Sang Joon, two scholars who specialize in Korean literature and culture. They also provide a critical introduction, an essay on SF fandom in South Korea, and contextualizing information and annotations for each story. The book is published by Kaya Press, a nonprofit publisher dedicated to books of the Asian Pacific diaspora.


What is South Korean science fiction?




Science fiction is a genre that imagines alternative worlds and futures based on scientific and technological innovations and their social and cultural consequences. Science fiction is often seen as a way of exploring the possibilities and challenges of human existence in relation to the natural and artificial environment.


South Korean science fiction is a relatively young but vibrant genre that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s, influenced by the global science fiction tradition as well as the local historical and political context. South Korea experienced rapid industrialization, urbanization, democratization, and globalization in the second half of the 20th century, transforming from a war-torn, impoverished, and authoritarian country to a prosperous, modern, and democratic nation. These dramatic changes also brought about social problems, such as environmental degradation, economic inequality, cultural homogenization, and identity crisis. South Korean science fiction reflects these changes and problems, as well as the hopes and fears of the people living in them.


South Korean science fiction also draws on the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Korea, such as its mythology, folklore, religion, philosophy, art, and literature. Some of the stories incorporate elements of Korean traditional culture, such as shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, geomancy, calligraphy, and poetry. Some of the stories also explore the complex and contested relationship between Korea and its neighbors, such as China, Japan, North Korea, and the United States.


Why read South Korean science fiction?




There are many reasons to read South Korean science fiction. Here are some of them:


  • South Korean science fiction offers a unique perspective on global technoindustrial modernity and its human consequences. Coming from a country renowned for its hi-tech industry and ultraspeed broadband yet mired in the unfinished Cold War, South Korean science fiction shows us how technology can be both a blessing and a curse, a source of empowerment and oppression, a tool of creativity and destruction.



  • South Korean science fiction showcases the thematic and stylistic versatility of South Korean writers. The stories in Readymade Bodhisattva cover a wide range of topics and genres, from philosophical questions about reality and identity to ethical dilemmas about artificial intelligence and genetic engineering; from dystopian visions of totalitarian regimes and nuclear wars to utopian dreams of interstellar travel and cosmic harmony; from cyberpunk thrillers of hackers and spies to magical realism tales of whales and flowers; from humorous satires of Buddhist robots and mockingbirds to tragic dramas of love and loss.



  • South Korean science fiction resonates with other popular cultural products of South Korea, such as K-pop, K-drama, videogames, which owe part of their appeal to their pulsating technocultural edge and their ability to play off familiar tropes in unexpected ways. If you are a fan of these products, you might enjoy reading South Korean science fiction as well.



Who are the authors and stories in Readymade Bodhisattva?




The book features 13 stories by 12 authors who represent different generations and backgrounds of South Korean science fiction. Here is a brief summary of each story and its author:


Geo-il Bok: "On the Eve of the Revolution"




This story was first published in 1967 and is considered one of the earliest examples of South Korean science fiction. It depicts a dystopian society controlled by a totalitarian regime that uses propaganda, surveillance, brainwashing, and violence to maintain its power. The story follows a young man who joins a rebel group that plans to overthrow the regime on the eve of a revolution.


Geo-il Bok (1930-2013) was a prolific writer who wrote novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, screenplays, and translations. He was also an activist who participated in various democratic movements against the military dictatorship in South Korea. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern Korean literature.


In-Hun Choi: "Another World"




This story was first published in 1972 and is one of the most acclaimed works of South Korean science fiction. It explores the nature of reality and identity through a man's encounter with a parallel world where everything is different from his own world. The story raises philosophical questions about free will, determinism, causality, and morality.


In-Hun Choi (1936-2018) was a prominent writer who wrote novels, ```html refugee who carries the memories of his lost planet in his genes. The story explores the themes of memory, identity, and belonging in a galaxy where humans are scattered and oppressed by an alien race.


Min-gyu Pak (born 1971) is a renowned writer who writes novels, short stories, essays, and translations. He is also a professor of creative writing and a critic of Korean literature and culture. He is known for his sophisticated and elegant style and his use of science fiction and fantasy elements to examine historical and social issues.


I-Hyeong Yun: "Sunset on Mars"




This story was first published in 2015 and is a hard science fiction story that portrays a terraforming project on Mars and its ethical implications. The story follows a team of scientists who are sent to Mars to investigate a mysterious phenomenon that threatens the project and their lives.


I-Hyeong Yun (born 1978) is a talented writer who writes novels, short stories, essays, and poems. He is also a translator of English literature, including works by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury. He is known for his realistic and rigorous style and his use of science fiction elements to explore scientific and moral questions.


How to get Readymade Bodhisattva?




If you are interested in reading Readymade Bodhisattva and discovering more about South Korean science fiction, you can order the book online from various platforms, such as Amazon, Kaya Press, or Book Depository. You can also check out the book's website for more information and resources, such as reviews, interviews, podcasts, videos, and events. You can also follow the book's social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and news.


Readymade Bodhisattva is a book that will enrich your imagination and broaden your horizon. It will introduce you to a fascinating and diverse world of South Korean science fiction that you might not have encountered before. It will also challenge you to think critically and creatively about the world we live in and the future we are heading towards.


FAQs about Readymade Bodhisattva




Here are some common questions and answers about the book:


  • Q: What does the title Readymade Bodhisattva mean?A: The title is taken from one of the stories in the book by Changgyu Kim. It refers to a robot that is adopted by a Buddhist temple as its new bodhisattva, or enlightened being. The robot is a readymade object that is repurposed for a religious function. The title also plays on the concept of readymade art, which is art made from ordinary objects that are presented as art. The title suggests that science fiction can be seen as a form of readymade art that transforms ordinary reality into extraordinary fiction.



  • Q: Who are the translators of the stories?A: The stories are translated by various translators who are experts in Korean language and literature. Some of them are also writers themselves. The translators are Sunyoung Park, Park Sang Joon, Sophie Bowman, Soyoung Kim, Sora Kim-Russell, Anton Hur, Victoria Caudle, Jihyun Park, Hyun Joo Yoo Lee, Jung Yewon, Jihae Park, Bruce Fulton, Ju-Chan Fulton.



```html representativeness, and availability. They tried to include stories that cover a wide range of topics, genres, styles, and periods, as well as stories that represent different generations and backgrounds of South Korean science fiction writers. They also tried to avoid stories that have already been translated and published in English or other languages.


  • Q: Are there any other anthologies of South Korean science fiction in English?A: There are a few other anthologies of South Korean science fiction in English, such as Science Fiction from Korea (2009), edited by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park; The Future Is Korean (2015), edited by Gord Sellar; and Readymade Chronicles (2017), edited by Minsoo Kang. However, Readymade Bodhisattva is the most comprehensive and up-to-date anthology of South Korean science fiction in English so far.



  • Q: Where can I find more information and resources about South Korean science fiction?A: There are some websites and blogs that provide information and resources about South Korean science fiction, such as Korean SF, Korean SF Association, Korean Speculative Fiction in Translation, and Speculative Spaces. You can also check out some academic journals and books that discuss South Korean science fiction, such as Korean Science Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays (2020), edited by Grace Yoojin Kim and Seo-Young Chu; and The Korean Wave: Evolution, Fandom, and Transnationality (2020), edited by Tae-Jin Yoon and Dal Yong Jin.



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