- Sun-Mi HwangKorea ★ Author
Sun-Mi Hwang was born in Hongseong, Korea, in 1963. Unable to afford middle school, she was given the key to a classroom by an understanding teacher, and so read books and educated herself. She was able to attend high school and the Seoul Institute of the Arts, Gwangju University and the Graduate School of Cung-ang University. Despite degrees in creative writing, she did not begin publishing until she was raising her own children. Her early writing quickly captured critical attention, and she was awarded the Children’s Literature New Writer Award in 1995. Since then, she has gone on to produce over 30 books for children, several of which are available in translation (into Taiwanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Filipino, German and Polish). Hwang’s novels include realistic school stories, animal stories, and fantasy and have been adapted as puppet shows, musicals and cartoons.
Much of Hwang’s work is concerned with ecocritical awareness and an interest in traditional Korean folklore. Her fantasy novel, Saemmaeul Mongdangkkaebi [The Adventures of Stubby the Broomstick], uses the figure of a doggaebi—a traditional Korean goblin—to negotiate between present, modern, and future Korea. The doggaebi has been sentenced to sleep in the roots of a ginko tree for 1000 years in punishment for a reckless love affair with a human, Beudeul. He wakes after just 300 years to meet Beudeul’s descendent and witness a world in which no one believes in his existence any longer. Gwasuwoneul Jeomnyeonghara [Capture the Orchard!] also features a ginko tree spirit, but focuses more on the interconnections between human, animal, and plant life. Both novels emphasize the rapidity of change taking place in Korean society.
Despite her own absence from middle school, Hwang has given several of her novels school settings and draws on her children’s experiences. Her most widely read novel is Nappeaun Eorinipyo [The Bad Kid Stickers] which clearly sides with children who have been treated unfairly by their teachers. Ilgi Gamchuneun Nal [The Day of Hiding My Diary] similarly sides with a child whose teacher insists on reading his diary every day. Dong-min discovers that writing honestly gets him into trouble with his friends and his mother, but he doesn’t want to write dishonestly and so decides to hide his diary. Both books have sold well, particularly the former. Hwang is one of very few Korean authors to have sold over one million copies of her books. She continues to write today, and also actively promotes and supports new authors.