Writing Alumna Translates Poetry Collection by Seo Jung Hak

Lisa Cochran
November 13, 2023

The Cheapest France in Town, a poetry collection by Seo Jung Hak, has been translated from the Korean by Writing alumna Megan Sungyoon ’20.

The collection is structured in the form of absurdist fables and prose poems. Largely centered around the existential absurdity of mid-level managerial positions in South Korea in a time of globalized capitalism, The Cheapest France in Town examines an uncanny ordinariness.

"Seo Jung Hak’s poetry feigns to visualize the present through an extremely low pulse rate,” writes poet Kim Hyesoon. “Then the farthermost outside intervenes—the illustrated world becomes distorted; the multiplicity of poetic composition intervenes. That’s when the pulse of his poetry explodes. The gravity shatters. For what? For hot love and infinite freedom. Thus [Seo Jung Hak’s] poetry deviates from the gravity at every moment to remain a documentation of one who has left."

Writer and translator Johannes Göransson says, “Megan Sungyoon’s remarkable translation brings into English the strange, nuanced intersection of numbness, repulsion, confusion, and even joy." 

Megan Sungyoon translates across genres and between languages. After receiving a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago with a thesis installation involving video, text, and sound, Sungyoon received an MFA from Columbia University where she served as the Columbia Journal’s translation editor. Her writing can be read or is forthcoming in SAND journal, The Margins, Hypertext Review, Copper Nickel, Asymptote, and The Columbia Journal.