The Korea Herald


Seoul Book Club to host Q&A with Jo Jung-rae

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 3, 2017 - 17:13

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Seoul Book Club is hosting an event with Jo Jung-rae, one of Korea’s top-selling writers, on Saturday.

Jo is one of Korea’s best-known living writers, having sold 16 million books. 

His 1970s short story “The Ice Age” is considered an influential work in Korean fiction, but he is best known for his multi-volume historical epics “The Taebaek Mountains,” “Arirang” and “The Han River.”

“I’m pretty excited actually. I’m a little nervous. Jo Jung-rae, he’s an older guy and he’s got this big reputation,” said Seoul Book Club host Barry Welsh, who will interview Jo. “I met him once before briefly at Seoul International Book Festival a few years ago and he was really charming and he seemed really happy to interact with fans and stuff, so I’m hoping that he will be friendly.”

Welsh said the quality of the work that was available in English meant there was good potential for his other work, and that he felt more should be available in translation.

“It’s a shame because they are pretty accessible. ‘How in Heaven’s Name’ is a pretty universal story about (how) people who don’t have any power are pushed around by historical forces,” he said.

“It‘s a great story and it’s based on a real event of historical interest and I could see it doing well if it had decent promotion behind it.”

Jo’s other works in English include “Playing With Fire” and “The Land of the Banished,” though some of his books are published under the spellings Cho Chung-rae and Cho Chongnae.

“The Human Jungle,” about Koreans and Japanese struggling to succeed in today’s rising China, was released in October.

“(It’s) quite fantastic actually,” Welsh said, adding that he was impressed by how up-to-date and detailed it was.

“Even in the later stages of his career, he seems really engaged with the modern world,” he said.

“I think he must have spent a lot of time in China, and I’m curious about how he did his research, because it has all these different levels of society in China.”

Welsh will also ask him about his other well-known work.

He’s written about these huge chunks of Korean history. It’s like he’s been trying to sum up these periods, in these big series and I’d like to find out more about those, and see if he can introduce them to foreign readers,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure the audience will have loads of questions, too.”

Other works available in English include “The Land of the Banished” and “Playing With Fire”

At the event, Jo will be interviewed in Korean, with English translation provided, before taking questions from the audience and signing books.

The event runs from 4 p.m. at Seoul Global Cultural Center in the M-Plaza building in Myeong-dong. Admission is 5,000 won.

By Paul Kerry (