Park Chan-soon finally became a recognized writer in 2006 at the age of 60. She won the Chosun-Ilbo Spring Literary Award with her very first novel “Garibong Kebab,” which exposes Koreans’ cruel attitude toward Chinese workers in Garibong. Four years later, she published a collection of short stories, “Bohaian Garden,” which made her a candidate for the Dongin Literary award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Korea.
Park says it was not surprising or abrupt for her to make a debut at an advanced age.
“Since my adolescence, I have dreamed of becoming a writer who could sublimate negative reality into a wonderful story that gives hope and comfort to the readers,” she said.
Park had many jobs before becoming a writer. She spent six years as a producer at Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation’s radio station after graduating from Yonsei University as an English Literature major. After getting married, she quit that job and began working as a part-time foreign film translator and part-time lecturer at the Ewha graduate school of translation and interpretation.
Though she wanted to become a novelist from her teenage years, Park could not write full time as soon as she wanted.
“After graduating from the university, I didn't want to financially dependent on my brother anymore. Becoming a writer seemed like a luxury for me, who had to earn money at that time.”
She translated foreign films and TV shows, including MacGyver (1986) and When Harry Met Sally (1989), until her mother’s death in 1997. This changed her point of view.
“A sudden revelation hit me when my mom passed away, which is to do what I like in my short life span,” Park said.
She kept translating foreign movies, but managed to spend her extra time writing novels. She completed “Garibong Kebab” in 2006.
Park said 30 years of translating helped her write novels. Documentaries, animations and movies from other countries showed her how people in other cultures live. This made her want to write stories dealing with world citizenship, which means to show tolerance to people with different backgrounds.
“I tried this by telling stories of uprooted people like Korean-Chinese people who came to Korea to earn money, the topic of my very first novel,” Park said.
“There are many splits not only in the world but also in Korea,” she said. “Maybe problems can’t help but arise because of human nature. I want to write a novel that makes readers think about the answers to those problems.”
After her debut, many reporters wrote articles about her, calling her a late bloomer. Park didn’t like people focusing more on her age than on the novel itself.
She was able to become a novelist at her age because she was still passionate about her dream. ” In my opinion, one is never old as long as one has one’s dream and people and things to love or have passion for.” Park said.