Every year, day, hour, minute even second is different. Last year was particularly unpredictable owing to the appearance of COVID-19. In 2021, it isn’t an unpredictable disrupter anymore; we casually wear a mask, keep social distance, even poke a nostril to check for infection. Meanwhile, countless industries barely endure difficult economic conditions and frozen consumption status. Above all, a bunch of theaters were ghost towns; audiences were confined to home instead of enjoying movies, plays, and concerts. Simultaneously, the empty time was filled with Netflix, books, and songs at the home-theater. The area of art has been exactly in heaven and hell; online concerts seemed to perfectly replace the burning heat of live ones, and artists was stolen the spotlight by the virus. Discussing to go back our ordinary days, can art, artists and we truly revive ourselves? In the 247th edition of the Mirror, we would like to foretell our future with the interview from three fascinating artists, a writer Chung Serang, the Chief Editor of Cine21 Jang Yeong-yup, and singer HA:TFELT.
- A writer Chung Serang, full of imagination and warmth to the Earth and Earthlings
1. From a traveling essay Can’t Love the Earth As Much As Earthian, novel From Siseon,, to a letter essay Letter of Luck to Unnine… You’ve written several books of colorful genres this year. As a writer, how do you feel about meeting the readers with both novels and essays?
It was difficult but meaningful to explore an unknown area. I'd like to bring honest words to express regular experiences, my values, strenuous agony, and something I wanted to deliver not thorough a form of fiction. A novel has several characters who have their own opinion, which might not perfectly match with mine. In the essay, unusually, every view and thought belong to me. Every single word in books was written as meticulously sifting grain from the chaff, but maybe a few years later, there will be something I want to change and correct.
2. Besides, you were also an honorary ambassador of the Seoul International Book Fair, lecturing about ‘Big Changeover from Small Thing’.
Literally an extraordinary experience! Because we can only be an ambassador of SIBF only once for one time in our whole life. My job was to promote the fair and lecture, which wasn’t out of the ordinary. But I also had to greet guests from home and abroad on behalf of the event, to be earnest. When the SIBF first suggested being an ambassador, I considered postponing it to the far future when the ceremony will be more crowded and abundant; it was a great choice to do in this hard time. A precious chance to feel how much I cherish books and lovers of reading was luckily given to me.
3. As a writer, what’s your driving force to venture colorful adventures like those activities?
When an opportunity to try new things approaches, I bravely grasp it even if I might regret it. I experience failure and feel embarrassed like others. Through knowing the specific area that I can adapt to or can’t, a distinct criterion can be established to make a choice for the future. For example, I have no talent to be a host. After several trials, I realized that I’m not good at logically express what I really mean to say, dividing times rhythmically, and keeping strengthen people’s concentration. During the events, I was not only really puzzled but also learned that a great host is rare, and I can ask the talented for help when I need. What a worthy experience!
4. After COVID-19, readers consider the publication market shows a prosperous condition because of social distancing, or at least that it remains stable. What’s your opinion on this as a writer?
I think similarly too: no big difference in the publication market. Even if books have to compete with other entertainments and they are relatively old and slow, their irreplaceable merits exist. I work in an antique and slow-growing industry. Rather than comparing other newborns, just to perform our role in our speed is more necessary.
5. Just like the last year, we had to keep our distance from each other. But we all need others, also you, the writer can’t get inspirations to write, edit the manuscript, and create all alone. Isn’t it hard to manage your job and personal days?
It was. I had to attend video conferences almost every week regardless of physical distance. The most impressive moment was a conversation with people in Chile, as I met them in the early morning because of the time difference. To research a material of my next novel, I needed to visit Gyeongju, also many bookstores and libraries in all parts of the country; but that was all delayed to next year. In that regard, there were a lot of restrictions but I’m grateful that video conferences progressed with ease.
Personally, I cannot do exercise without great coaches as I am a terrible athlete! Finally started running, it turned out to really suit me, and my stuffy feelings were partly gone. Still, I imagine the refreshment and enjoyment that I could have gotten if I were running without masks.
6. This year, when the virus was another part of daily life, I think the art saved us, and we also saved art. How about you? Please describe the relationship between yourself and art.
I had thought like that, ‘Art saved us, and we saved art.’ Particularly, detective novels help me a lot. In the world of mystery, problems are always solved! Reading those lucid stories, I could throw out gloominess, and I once again discovered the power of light reading for pleasure. Even if it doesn’t have enormous or sensical values, aren’t page-turners just enough to entertain us? I absolutely admired them. In this view, I might be a person who is fond of art every day. Well, I do produce art pieces. Basically, I fully enjoy them and remind myself of how lucky I am because I vie with so many wonderful artists right now.
7. To writer Chung Serang, how was 2021 and what do you expect for next year?
This year’s mission was to find not an excessive but reasonable border. I always had to agonize about what should I do now, whether I should do it or not, and when is the best time to do it. Even next year, I hope to concentrate on things which I must do, and those that I think are meaningful. Some superfluousness could bloom in richness, but too much of one is just an overabundance. My new-year wish is to constringe myself in the opposite direction of overabundance.
- The prudent captain of fruitful movie magazine Cine21, Jang Yeong-yup
1. Cine21, Korea’s one and only weekly movie magazine, introduces diverse films and public culture. Interestingly, each magazine has a theme that covers whole articles; for example, the 1327th edition’s theme is ‘MASTER CLASS’, and the 1307th edition’s theme is ‘Korean Movie’s New Paradigm.’ How do editors select each theme, and how do you organize all the articles?
We determine a special feature of each edition at the weekly editorial meeting that’s held every Monday. news-gathering, editing, photo, new media… Every department and member in Cine21 participate in the meeting to present the idea about the magazine. After the concept and items of the magazine are fixed, we talk about next agenda, ‘how can we deliver these ideas to readers?’ In this case, reporters who actually have a role to write an article put forward opinions, including the chief editor.
2. Your shoulder must bear heavy responsibility; every week you, the editor-in-chief has to supervise the whole magazine’s flow, also penning pieces yourself. Would you like to share the key to staying motivated?
Curiosity. There are no qualms with watching fresh contents in me. When enjoying commendable films or series, I want to share why I commend and like them. The pure desire to herald my knowledge and experience keeps me eligible for being an editor and chief of Cine21. Also, I think people who truly love the contents and want to enquire about everything they see will fit for this job.
3. Recently, Cine21 continues new challenges; a digitally remastered version of the first edition was sold as an NFT, and the official YouTube channel energetically runs with regular sections. Is there any special background to do so?
The latest public consumes diverse contents based on the mobile environment. The contentment that paper magazine can only provide is priceless. Though, to reach more of the public, Cine21 should seek new entertainment in the digital platform. As an outcome of effort, we published NFT and created divergent programs on the YouTube channel.
4. After COVID-19, the film market had a fatal blow; filmmakers sought a solution through OTT services, but it’s still painful to witness the closure of Seoul Cinema, which was the cultural center of Seoul. As an editor of the movie magazine and cineaste, how do you feel about it?
I regard the recent movie market as an interesting period that crisis and chance coexist. In the first half of this year, the number of theater patrons decreased by 80% compared to the previous year due to the pandemic, bringing a knockdown blow to the film industry. On the other hand, K-contents, such as a drama series Kingdom and Squid Game produced by Korean film directors, lead the crowd and flow, by getting worldwide limelight through global OTT platforms. The film industry solidly relying on the theater is in crisis. However, K-contents maximize their chance to be famous globally; it’s indeed encouraging that the boundary between movie and drama is gradually being erased, and platforms are diversifying.
5. However, films are still being created and the existence of women and Asians are getting bigger. You are also a woman chief in 14 years, and Marvel’s first Asian hero solo movie Shang-chi and the Legend of Ten Rings hit the theater. What kind of movie will arrive in the future?
Diversity is a far-reaching topic of the whole entertainment world, and Korea discusses it together. For instance, Marvel’s superhero movie Eternals, which was already unsealed in November, has a Chinese-born female director, a hearing-impaired hero, and an LGBT+ hero for the first time in the Marvel Cinematic World. In this way, the film will be more broadened through the struggles to reenact our society’s diversity which has been neglected by past pop culture. As divergence originates from the brave who represent diverse values, a trend to appoint creators and professionals from different cultures, identities, and beliefs will be more accelerating and steadier.
6. This year, when COVID-19 was another part of daily life, I think art saved us, and we also saved art. How about you? Please describe the relationship between yourself and art.
To me, it is a part of daily life, my best friend, and wellspring of vitality. Sometimes, I imagine how boring and tasteless my life will be without art.
7. To the editor Jang Yeong-yup, how was 2021 and what do you expect for next year?
To me, last year when COVID-19 emerged was the continuity of chaos and change; this year when the pandemic became a routine, it offered us a space to explore what we should change, and what we can make. We are surfing the wave of change, too. Next year, we will coexist with the Coronavirus; Korean movies delayed their opening days will flush to the audiences. In 2022, I hope we all, including the Sungshin Mirror readers can meet in the theater!
- HA:TFELT’s canvas is a song, and the paints are herself
1. The official homepage introduced you, HA:TFELT as ‘a singer-songwriter who creates own story.’ It must be hard to be both a fine composer and a truthful storyteller at the same time. How did you choose to be?
Rather than I chose to be, it was more of an inevitable process for me. During 10 years as an idol member of girl group ‘WonderGirls’, I received so much love; as a solo artist ‘HA:TFELT’, I wanted to speak out about my own story. And, I didn’t think it was a hard path, just when I started.
2. Your new song ‘Summertime’, after a 10 months of break, entertained the public and fans; it reminds us of summer’s sultry mood. How was the process of the song-making?
Summer left me a lot of stunning memories; the season of vacation is when the most throbbing things in a whole year can happen! Actually, the song ‘Summertime’ was made earlier this year, in the winter. One day I just awoke, and the weather was so nice; I thought today would have been much greater if itw was summer. This was the inspiration for the song, and I also hoped listeners can recall their own pieces of dreamy summertime.
3. The album isn’t the end. You brilliantly performed at the 23rd Seoul Women’s Film Festival and organized the Specialized Committees on Digital Sexual Crimes with eminent professionals. What else do you want to do for expanding your rim broader? Personally, the essay would be an attractive challenge for you.
Last year, I released an album 1719, and published an essay together. If you are interested, try it. Besides, I’d like to write a scenario. Being diffident to direct whole scenes, someday I’d like to unfold a longer and deeper story through means other than songs.
4. What drives you to manage all these jobs?
Well… maybe it’s because I usually rest a lot. Unless I’m at work, I take a full rest as much as I can. Like a snake coils to hibernate, my energy to be an artist is saved up during break.
5. Even after COVID-19, a number of great songs continuously keep flowing out to the market; as a result, the music industry doesn’t seem to like to undergo a huge change, except for canceling a few offline concerts. Can you share the experience as a singer, not as a listener?
First of all, the vanishment of offline concerts is the biggest change. To singers, we must keep showing new albums without hearty applause and cheer from the audiences. I think we miss that so much. However, a new kind of music inspired by COVID-19; some singers talk about the hope or despair we found in the era of the new virus.
6. It’s so certain that the environment of producing songs was changed, too. Musicians have to concern with not only about the music itself but also masks and the number of staff, too.
Well, there is nothing special I can feel with my skin. Wearing a mask is not awkward anymore, isn’t it? One exception is my company. It’s been a while since we’ve worked at home, but I’m still surprised when I visited the empty office, thinking, ‘Oh, right, we have coronavirus. Right.’
7. This year, when COVID-19 was another part of daily life, I think art saved us, and we also saved art. How about you? Please describe the relationship between yourself and art.
I agree that art saves me. Especially in childhood, I had times when I suffered but with the music. Other poetry, novels, cartoons, and films comforted me and let me stand and have hope in my heart. The show must go on in whatever the circumstances. Someone says, “Art starves you! It won’t fill your plate.”, but at least art does cheer us up to hold a spoon.
8. To the singer HA:TFELT, how was 2021 and what do you expect for next year?
This year was a new starting point, running my YouTube channel and dancing on the stage after a long time. Next year, I want to harvest results from this year’s trials and stand on the stage until I’m sick of it.
Even if Jane Austen, Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, and Amy Winehouse were here, they couldn’t overcome nor bear the era of the Coronavirus. As much as that, artists and art are at the hardest time ever. However, we are alive, and according to three interviewees we met today, we are mighty enough to revive. The source of our power comes from ourselves, audiences. Even though it was impossible to listen to each story, sincerely thank you to all of the audiences, including readers of the Mirror. If you don’t exist, art was unable to exist either. In short, artists and audiences are each other’s saviors. All the interviewees also mentioned how important the audiences are in unison. As ever, artists and their precious pieces will wait for you, and other audiences at the entrance to the new year. Meet you in 2022!
(Korean version of entire interview is uploaded at the Sungshin Mirror’s homepage)
By Kim Hyeyeong Deputy Editor-in-Chief