Pusanweb judging and stories on life in Korea

Late last month I served as a judge in the Pusanweb Writing Contest. Pusan is where I lived as an expatriate teacher from 1996 to 1998, so it was interesting to see that city (and the teacher-expat experience) rendered through the eyes of others. Surprisingly for a non-fiction writer, I was not impressed by the non-fiction entries as much as the fiction ones, which did a great job of capturing the contradictions of expat life in Korea. The overall winner was A.C. Koch’s well-drawn, “Three Girls, Three Days“. Personally, I also enjoyed Scott Morley’s “Obstacles” and Ian Christopher Hooper’s “The Monk Who Never Sleeps” — both of which (while a little lacking in story structure) were spot-on observations of the frustrations and idiosyncrasies of the boozy, disjointed expat lifestyle in Korea.

A majority of the stories were written from a male perspective, thus capturing the confused, quasi-macho bravado that can accompany life as a Korea expat. Jake Roberts’ prostitute tale “What 70,000 won Will Get You in Busan“, and Albert Puido’s night-on-the-town story “Jungang-dong” are additional examples of this. L.F. Beaucher’s “Boom Boom in Pusan” was another memorable story, with creative plotting and vibrant characters.

At times, it was strange being a judge for this contest, since I wondered if my own experience as a Korea expat might have clouded my ability to objectively judge on the basis of the writing itself (“Obstacles” and “The Monk Who Never Sleeps”, for example, might not have much interest or appeal to those who can’t relate to all the vivid details of Pusan expat life). Still, I was amazed by the similarities in the various stories — the alienation, incomprehension, and personality reinvention that come from living within a strange new culture like Korea. I’d be interested to think what people who’ve never been to Korea might think of these stories.

Posted by | Comments Off on Pusanweb judging and stories on life in Korea  | January 2, 2003
Category: Travel News

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