Interview with Bora Chung, President of SFWUK

Bora Chung is a science fiction writer and current president of the Federation of Korean Science Fiction Writers (SFWUK). In an interview, she told us about her exciting work as a novelist and short story writer and about her work at SFWUK.

For them, protecting the book is the highest priority. FFWUK is committed to fair wages, more opportunities to publish your own work, and the advancement of the science fiction community in general.

In a conversation with Bora Chung

Sumikai: Tell us about yourself, your position at SFWUK, and your work in general.

Bora Chung: My name is Bora Chung, I write science fiction and speculative literature, and I also translate Russian and Polish literature into Korean. I am currently the president of the Federation of Korean Science Fiction Writers (SFWUK). She has written three novels and four short story collections. One of these groups, Cursed Bunny (2021), has been nominated for the 2022 International Booker Prize. One of the stories from this collection can be found here.

Another story entitled “Ambush” was translated and published in the Berlin Quarterly (December 2021).

Sumikai: What can you tell me about Suffolk?

Bora Chung: The Federation of Korean Science Fiction Writers or SFWUK is a group of science fiction writers, and as you can tell from our name we are a union of sorts. Our goal is to protect the author: better payment, more publishing opportunities, more active marketing and/or promotion of science fiction in general, and most importantly copyright protection.

With respect to these core goals, we support freedom of expression. SFWUK is also committed to supporting human rights and demonstrating solidarity on various human rights issues both in Korea and abroad.

Sumikai: How many members do you have?

Bora Chung: 61 and goes up.

Sumikai: Are there any special activities for SFWUK?

Bora Chung: In 2018 we attended the WorldCon in San Jose, USA. I was there myself giving a lecture on Korean science fiction. And in 2018 and 2019, we participated in the Seoul International Book Fair, where members gave talks, facilitated conversations with international authors, and gave a panel discussion.

But since the pandemic, we are focusing more on business in Korea and supporting new writers who are just starting their careers. We have small groups within our organization, such as the short story collection (SF of the month), the novel collection (The Forest That Opens the World), and the children’s story collection (Tasty Touching Stories). Members of these small groups try to write stories in these genres, reading each other’s works for criticism and advice.

Sumikai: How did you work with SFWJ (Japanese science fiction and fantasy writers) on this combined writing?

Bora Chung: SFWJ visited our website and suggested that we make a joint statement. We welcomed the idea and started writing the draft. In doing so, we found that the SFWJ also issued a statement about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that their statement addressed issues that were overlooked in our statement.

So we specifically mentioned these issues, like the nuclear threat, in our statement and showed it to SFWJ, SFWJ gave us their opinion, we reviewed it and they reviewed theirs, and the joint statement was ready in surprisingly short time. The original English version with Russian and Ukrainian translations, as well as the Korean and Japanese versions were completed within 5 days. I am very happy and proud of what we have done and SFWUK is very grateful to SFWJ for taking the initiative to propose a collaboration.

Sumikai: In addition to this letter, is SFWUK interested in any other actions? Such as paid readings to support Ukraine and others.

Bora Chung: No. Our members separately do what they can do as individual citizens: donate to the Ukrainian Embassy in Korea, go to anti-war protests, write opinion pieces, etc.

Sumikai: What is your government doing and do you think that’s enough?

Bora Chung: The Korean government has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine and is participating in various sanctions against Russia. In addition, a surprising number of ordinary Koreans either donated to the Ukrainian Embassy’s Emergency Relief Fund or sent aid packages to Ukraine, or even both. Korean companies are also sending aid packages such as medical supplies and drinking water to Ukraine.

Of course, none of this can stop the war, so nothing is enough as long as the war continues. But because of the sanctions, Korean companies, especially small ones that deal with Russian companies, suffer a lot: they do not receive their payments, they cannot import materials, exports are canceled, etc. Citizens, at this point the Korean government should do more.

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