ⓒ Kyunghyang Shinmun, Chosun Ilbo, DongA Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo
New writers make their debut to the literary world by presenting their works through various channels such as independent publications, contracts with a publisher, literary contests, and online platforms. Among all these, “Shinchunmunye (Spring Literary Contest)” is a unique literary contest in Korea reserved for young writers. Korean newspapers select and award works of new writers on every first day of the year; it is also referred to as “the gateway for newly-debuting writers.”
The uniqueness of the Spring Literary Contests comes from the fact that unlike other contests or literary awards, their door is open to only the works of new writers, limiting the participation of professional writers. Therefore, it is playing a critical role in the Korean literary world as it discovers new literary authors and widely introduces their works to readers. Also, it is the nature of the contests as they are hosted by newspapers that the awarded works are published on the first page of the newspaper along with a plaque and cash prize; winning a Spring Literary Contest in Korea is thus particularly regarded to be special and honorable.
The Spring Literary Contest first began in Korea by DongA Ilbo in 1925. During its century-long history, authors Kim Dong-Ni, Lee Mun-Yol, Seo Gyeong-Ju, Kim Yu-Jeong, and Hwang Seok-Young made their debut through this contest. Submission generally ends in early December, and the awardees are announced in early January the following year. Genres are not limited to novels or poems; various works within the genres of short novels, poems, criticism, plays, and children’s stories are also awarded though it may differ by newspaper. The competition among writers is fierce, as the cash prize ranges from a million won to tens of millions of won.
Works of new and creative writers were introduced to readers through the Spring Literary Contest in 2020 as well. Poem ‘Viking Ride’ by Ko Myung-Jae, novel ‘Paper House’ by Kim Su-Young, and play ‘People at the Edge of a Cliff’ by Kim Joon-Hyun won the Chosun Ilbo contest, while in the DongA Ilbo contest, poem ‘The Milk-pourer’ by Kim Dong-Kyun, novel ‘Before the Sun Sets’ by Seo Jang-Won, and play ‘Raising Cactus’ by Cho Ji-Min were selected. These works are not alone – read on to find collections of awarded works in each field and to meet more winning stories.
<Spring Literary Contest Novel Collection (2020) (Korea Writers Association)>, <Spring Literary Contest Poem Collection (2020) (Munse Books)>,
<Spring Literary Contest Play Collection (2020) (Worin)>
Meanwhile, some people say that the Contests would have been better if the newspapers could steadily introduce authors and works throughout the year. Yet, the authority and influence of the Spring Literary Contests in the Korean literary world remain strong. We introduce to you the writers that have been actively producing works since their winning of the Contest and their works below.
Novelist Kim Un-Su
<Cabinet (Munhakdongne)>, <The Plotters (Munhakdongne)>, <Hot Blood (Munhakdongne)>
Writer Kim Un-Su who has gained popularity across the globe with his work <The Plotters> began his career when his novel ‘Breaking Up with Friday’ won the Spring Literary Contest of the DongA Ilbo for medium-length stories in 2003. His first long novel <Cabinet> also won the 12th Munhakdongne Novel Prize in 2006. Kim Un-Su’s flagship story <The Plotters> not only made its way to be a finalist in the Grand Prix de la Littéraire Policière, but also its publication rights were sold to 24 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Finland. The work is currently under movie production. His latest work <Hot Blood> has been a hot topic as it captured Korean noir.
Novelist Kim Soom
<The Women who Sew (Moonji Publishing)>, <Have You Ever Wished a Soldier Could Become an Angel (Hyundae Munhak)>,
<Could I Ever Touch a Tree (Munhakdongne)>
Winning the Spring Literary Contest held by the Daejeon Ilbo in 1997 with her work ‘On Slowness’, writer Kim Soom earned recognition for the literary value of her works by winning the Contemporary Literature Prize, Daesan Literary Award, and the Yi Sang Literary Award. Entering the 23rd year of her writing career, Kim Soom is continuously presenting new works to her readers including <The Women who Sew> that depicts women that gave up marriage, honor, and life to live as sewing women, <Have You Ever Wished a Soldier Could Become an Angel>, a record of desperate days for survival based on the testimony of the “comfort women” forcibly mobilized for sexual relationships during the Japanese occupation, and <Could I Ever Touch a Tree> that seems to be telling readers to look at the tree, not the forest.
Poet Lee Jenny
<Maybe Africa (Changbi)>, <Things Thus Scribbled (Munji Publishing)>, <The Beautiful Non-Existing Sentence (Hyundae Munhak)>
Poet Lee Jenny made her first step into the literary world when her poem ‘Peru’ won the Spring Literary Contest held by the Kyunghyang Shinmun in 2008. Lee Jenny - praised as the “poet of all the voices in the world”- announced her first poetry collection <Maybe Africa> with her boundless imagination, dynamic rhythm, and vivacious speech. Since then, she has been drawing attention and raising expectations with her works including <Things Thus Scribbled> and <The Beautiful Non-Existing Sentence>, having her peerless and unique characteristics recognized among young poets that entered the literary world in the 2000s.
Poet Gil Sang-Ho
<Our Charge: Meow (Munhakdongne)>, <Falling Asleep in the Paulownia Tree (Walker)>,
<That’s It for Today; Leave the Story of Tomorrow for Tomorrow (Walker)>
Poet Gil Sang-Ho began his literary career after winning the Spring Literary Contest for poems held by the Hankook Ilbo with his work ‘The House Built by the Old Man’ in 2001. His <Falling Asleep in the Paulownia Tree> also won the 10th Contemporary Poets Group Award in 2004 after its publication. Poet Gil Sang-Ho has been gaining a reputation for his delineation of feelings and delicate linguistic descriptions through his works including <Our Charge: Meow> that talks about his honest story in three parts and <That’s It for Today; Leave the Story of Tomorrow for Tomorrow> that helps us achieve a better understanding about each other.
Written by Choi Ha-Yeong