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[Newsmaker] Publishers suspend sales of autofiction author Kim Bong-gon’s works containing private messages used without consent

Kim Bong-gon (Munhak Dongne)
Kim Bong-gon (Munhak Dongne)

Publisher Munhak Dongne announced Friday that it was suspending sales of books featuring author Kim Bong-gon’s works that have come under fire for using without consent an acquaintance’s private messages.

Kim gained attention for his vivid autofiction -- or fictionalized autobiography -- regarding LGBTQ culture when he came out of the closet as he embarked on a writing career in 2016. The personal yet fictional stories involving the intense emotional struggles of LGBTQ characters were highly acclaimed and proved popular. However, the fictional characters in his stories have been revealed to be not so fictional.
“2020 11th Young Writers Award Collection” featuring Kim Bong-gon’s “Such Life” (Munhak Dongne)
“2020 11th Young Writers Award Collection” featuring Kim Bong-gon’s “Such Life” (Munhak Dongne)

The issue was first raised when a person claimed she was “sister C” from Kim’s Young Writers Award-winning “Such Life” on Twitter on July 10. She said that Kim had used messages between them word for word in his story without her consent and requested that publisher Munhak Dongne edit the passage in question and cancel Kim’s award.

Kim uploaded an apology along with his stance Thursday through Twitter, saying he thought she had given her consent indirectly. Kim also addressed other criticism in saying that being one of the editors for the 2020 11th Young Writers Award Collection did not have an effect on the outcome.

Munhak Dongne refused to cancel the award, claiming that the verbatim message was not a crucial factor in Kim winning the award. It edited the passage in question and offered to replace books already purchased with the newly edited version.

However, when an additional person claimed to be a victim in an another novel by Kim on Friday, Munhak Dongne announced it was suspending sales of the books altogether.

“Today, on July 17, someone raised an issue regarding author Kim Bong-gon’s ‘Summer, Speed,’ and the author admitted to the claims,” tweeted publisher Munhak Dongne. “In order to prevent further damage, we will stop the sales of both ‘Summer, Speed’ and ‘2020 11th Young Writers Award Collection.’”

Changbi, which published a collection of fiction by Kim featuring “Such Life,” also announced on Friday that it would edit the passage of “Such Life” in question and offered to exchange the books as well.
“Summer, Speed” by Kim Bong-gon (Munhak Dongne)
“Summer, Speed” by Kim Bong-gon (Munhak Dongne)

The new victim introduced himself as Young-woo from Kim’s debut work of fiction, “Summer, Speed.’

“I am Young-woo from author Kim Bong-gon’s debut title piece ‘Summer, Speed.’ I am a real person,” tweeted one user. “I am once again showing in public space that exploitation under the name of autofiction for personal greed is still harming real people.”

The person claimed he was outed by Kim through the novel, with two people asking him about the novel directly. He claimed that Kim did not respond to his requests to edit sincerely and he said that he has been suffering psychologically since.

Criticism aimed at Kim and Munhak Dongne has continued as multiple people demand that “2020 Young Writers Award Collection” be re-released without Kim’s work entirely.

“You shouldn’t stop selling the book. You should be taking back Kim’s award and sell a collection without it. What did the other authors do wrong?” tweeted one person. Munhak Dongne announced that an additional response would be posted as soon as possible.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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