Autofiction Versus a Victim's Life1)
Kim Bonggon, a LGBTQ writer, utilizes the queer narration by writing 'autofiction'. 'Autofiction' is a coined term from 'auto', meaning oneself in Greek etymology, and 'fiction'. On July 10, however, a female victim said she suffered damages from the novel Such a Life written by Kim. She identified with one of the characters in Such a Life, Sister C. She voiced her suffering on Twitter. In the novel, there is a Kakaotalk conversation between Bonggon and Sister C about sexuality. The conversation was adapted from the true-life conversation, so it directly injured the real Sister C by causing her to feel sexual shame and self-hatred. The real Sister C also claimed that C is the first initial of her name. She asserted Kim promised to change the name, but he did not. Kim won the 'Young Authors Award', but she had called on the publication industry to cancel the award. Writer Kim, in his defense, said he has already spoken to the woman but she was unsatisfied. Also, Kim said the Kakaotalk conversation was altered before it was included in the book of The 11th Anthology of Award-winning Young Authors and Days and Moods. On July 17, another sexual minority male claimed he, too, was a victim. He said the character 'Youngwoo' in the Summer, Speed is based on him. He claimed that almost every word of their true-life conversation is printed in the novel, which he never agreed to. Unlike the first claim by Sister C, Kim quickly admitted his fault in the Youngwoo case.
After admission, Kim Bonggon said he would suspend the sale of his books Summer, Speed and Days and Moods, and his award 'Young Authors Award' would be taken away. Munhakdongne Publishing Group and Changbi Publishers followed with similar measures. Munhakdongne removed remaining books by Kim in their bookstores and republished The 11th Anthology of Award-winning Young Authors after removing Such a Life. It also exchanged or refunded the 90,000 copies that had been sold if people came forth and asked for an exchange or refund. Changbi, also, gave refunds for the sold books. These measures, however, were only implemented after the second victim came forward. For Sister C's claim, Munhakdongne and Changbi only modified the Kakaotalk conversation in an attempt to appease her on July 14. It was only after the second victim came forward that they announced an exchange or refund of books on July 16. This action came when readers' complaints started to grow. In other words, they handled the problem passively for the female victim. Readers also said that the victims were real persons, but the literary world was trying to portray them merely as characters in a novel. Literature is often influenced by events in reality. So, it is important to listen to victims' voices carefully and ensure written material is only inspired by and not copy exact real-life stories.
1) Lee Seulgi, “‘The Kim Bonggon Situation' That Led to the Suspension of Sales... Ask for Ethics in the Literary World”, The Seoul Shinmun, July 19, 2020