Interview with Jeong Yeon-Bin
This post is a translation of an interview appearing on Channel Yes.
Jeong Yeon-Bin: “If there’s something you want to do, it’s not bad to do it alone.”
Please introduce yourself a little bit.
I’m Jeong Yeon-Bin.
Short and direct, but a little awkwardly so. What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been writing a children’s book. You know, in children’s books there are writers and artists, I’m just the writer. Right now I’m working on a children’s book for world history, something to which talks about history in a way that’s easy to understand, like a conversation. Other than that, I’ve been contributing to Channel Yes, WomenNet, Kyeonggi Women, and Hankyoreh Hook.
What kinds of things do you write?
I’m really interested in the media and issues related to women. I don’t have an extensive background in music or films, but when I write reviews I can do it from a perspective that only I am able to give. Occasionally, story ideas come to me from kids I see or dramas. For example, interesting things like the ‘sexy code’ that G. Dragon, Ga-In, and other idols seem to follow.
I generally write to the sensibility of a female readers. And lately, I see a lot of fun in this whole situation of the blurring and confusion of gender lines. It’s already been discussed a lot in academics, but masculinity and femininity aren’t fixed. I plan on continuing to write about ‘media and culture from a feminist perspective’.
It seems like your gender plays a significant role in your writing. Was there anything in particular that gave you your start?
No, not really…Actually, now that I think about it, there was something a little special. When I was in high school, our school newspaper had a women’s section. Then, in college, I started a small feminist magazine to circulate around school.
I guess you could say that’s when I was first introduced to the medium I work in. When you picture a feminist, you think of people who want to go out and fight without any clear plan. But me, I like peace. After starting the magazine, I remember an incident where someone broke punched holes into the door of the editorial room. We patched up the holes nicely. (Laughs)
I hear you recently decided to go to graduate school. Settled on what to study?
I’ve decided on film and broadcast media in the university’s Communication Department. I’m completely unfamiliar film studies and I’m not actually sure if I can manage to get in, but I applied because I enjoyed Tumen River by the director Zhang Lu. It even made me feel like I had to meet him and get his autograph since he was invited to the school as a department lecturer.
As part of the selection process, I submitted something I had made. Even though it wasn’t exactly a video, I decided to turn in a novel I had written. Since the major is ‘Film and Broadcast Media’, most of the students turned in a video with their applications. I was the only one to turn in a piece of writing. I hear that it caused a lot of confusion in the school at the time. (Laughs)
What was the plot of the novel?
There were four short stories. I don’t really have anything particular to say about the novel. Because they were short stories, the narrator wasn’t clear. Since I like them, I got an urge to write one. That’s how I started, but I haven’t been able to write anything I’m ever satisfied with. I had never even imagined that something I had written could be used for something like this.
Now you’re a freelancer, but you used to work at a company, right?
Yeah, I worked for a lot of companies, but I quit.
A common phrase among office workers is, “I wanna quit working for so-and-so.” Any advice for these kinds of people?
They don’t really need advice from me. Most of the people who talk about quitting, don’t go through with it. (Laughs) Rather than giving advice, I’d prefer to share a bit of my own experience. When I said I was quitting my last job, people around me were more surprised than I was.
On the outside, it looked like things on my job were smooth and peaceful. But in carrying out my work, I knew it wasn’t the kind of job for me. A company is a place to do the company’s work, but while I was there I also wanted to pursue some work of my own. If the company’s work/goals and a person’s work/goals are the same, then there’s no problem at all—but that wasn’t my case.
Working with all that in mind, I couldn’t find fulfillment, and so I quit. What was an even bigger problem, though, was the commute to work. I was never late, but waking up in the mornings for work was so hard. When everyone wakes up, one thought they always have is about not wanting to go to work. But anyway, now that I’m doing my own work, there’s not the slightest difficulty and I’m content. Sure, there’s a little uneasiness about making a living, but if you can see it as fun, then I recommend resigning. (Laughs) I have the power to manage my own schedule, and since I’m doing my own work, I take responsibility for it, too.
And when something succeeds, you’re even happier. I don’t have anything to say to people who are worried about leaving their jobs, except that lots of people think about quitting. For them, maybe a little more self-reflection would be better?
When do you visit Channel Yes?
I enjoy reading classics, and until recently I’ve only been focused on them. I’m trying to read more contemporary writers. So I come for that kind of information. There are times when I come for some specific piece of information that I want to know, but there are times when I don’t come for that. While there are a lot of journalist who do interviews and location sketches, it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more doing reviews.
Since you read classic literature, what work do you like?
In Search of Lost Time.
I’ve heard that by the time you finish the book, it kind of messes with you? Was it alright?
Maybe Ulysses is like that, but In Search of Lost Time isn’t quite that extreme. (Laughs) I enjoy reading authors whose work places the reader under pressure. While reading books, I get the feeling of ‘I’m enduring something’ rather than ‘this is interesting’. I also like Don Quixote. When the book ends, there are a lot of unexpected points. It’s a bit like the feeling you get from a comic book. For that reason, I also like books from Central America.
Anything you’d like to recommend to our readers?
I recently saw the play I Am My Own Wife. I recommend it.