Jiwon (Jenny) Na Q & A with Eastern Iowa Review
Chila: Your story, "After the Dust Settles," is memorable because I feel these may be very real concerns of yours. Tell us why you wrote the story.
Jiwon: “After the Dust Settles” was originally written at a high school summer camp, where I took a course for creative writing. It was my first time being in a writing workshop and I panicked when asked to finish a short story in three weeks because I had no idea what to write about. When searching for ideas, I tried to find a theme or idea that was relevant to me but not too typical or cliché. That idea happened to be war and conflict. I grew up in a generation that constantly hears about suicide bombing and ISIS on the news. Living in South Korea, a country that is technically still at war, I live under the constant threat of a nuclear attack. News about North Korea’s provocative threats are pretty much an inseparable part of my daily life. I wanted to focus on not just the conflict itself, but also individual experiences of grief, violence, and the emotional strain of making difficult decisions. I would say that my submitted story is a product of my upbringing and curiosities.
Chila: Who are your greatest literary influences and why?
Jiwon: I think many writers have very specific literary influences, but I don’t have a particular one mind, probably because I haven’t found an author that has influenced my writing significantly. I would say that there are, however, several authors who inspired me to start reading literature and consider creative writing. They would be young adult authors like Suzanne Collins, J. K. Rowling, Veronica Roth, and Cassandra Clare, to name a few. Hopefully I can find a writer with a legitimate literary influence on me in the near future.
Chila: How much longer before you finish your basic education? What are your plans after that?
Jiwon: I’m currently a sophomore (10th grade) in South Korea at Chadwick International School. Our school is an IB (International Baccalaureate) school and I am in the MYP program. I have two and a half years left before I finish my basic education and graduate from high school. After that, I plan to go to a college in the U.S. and potentially pursue a degree in political science or international relations. I’m still undecided about what my major will be because I’m interested in humanities in general.
Chila: I hope I get a chance to meet you someday! What would you like to eventually write more than anything else?
Jiwon: I would eventually like to write more about social issues in South Korea, especially the political revolution that my country has experienced in the past few years. As a student of an international school, I grew up reading English books that almost always take place in America. It’s been frankly difficult for me to access short stories or novels that take place in South Korea. In fact, I would even say that stories about South Korea contain many stereotypes; Korean students are academically oriented, but they don’t have “SAT vocabulary apps” on their phones or “think studying is cool”. I want my stories to be reflective of social issues in Korea but also clarify some misconceptions about my country.
Chila: What can you tell us about South Korea that we might not know? I've heard it's a beautiful country.
Jiwon: South Korea is definitely a beautiful country. In my opinion, the weather is the best during spring time. You can expect (for the most part) pink cherry blossoms and warm weather perfect for a stroll in the park. Korea also has a rich culture with many traditional customs, excellent food, K-POP, and a language unique to the Korean peninsula. I would encourage anyone to visit Korea just for a taste of our culture.
Chila: It sounds lovely. Anything else you want to share with us?
Jiwon: Korea has received a lot of attention over the past few weeks because of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. I hope that people will continue this interest and take this opportunity to learn more about Korea and clarify some of their misconceptions about my country.
Chila: I certainly hope so too, Jiwon. Thank you so much for sending your story to us, and for chatting with me in this interview. Best wishes to you, my friend!
Jiwon (Jenny) Na is a fifteen year old South Korean. The short stories, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, and “The Ceiling” by Kevin Brockmeier are examples of the type of work she wants to produce; they inspired her to write short-fiction and novellas, both in Korean and English. Jiwon grew up in a generation that constantly hears of suicide bombing and ISIS on the news. Living in South Korea, a country that is technically still at war, she lives under the constant threat of a nuclear attack; she therefore often focuses on the themes of grief, violence, and the emotional strain of making difficult decisions. She has attended several writing workshops and writes several days a week. Eastern Iowa Review was glad to provide her first publication.