Anchorwoman and author Baik Ji-yeon talks about her new work of fiction “Handstand” in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Tuesday. (Bookfolio)
Baik Ji-yeon is the epitome of a successful modern woman.
Having become the youngest-ever news anchorwoman in Korea at age 24, she possesses a refined appearance, elegance, confidence and celebrated career that many young women admire.
While earning her many different titles ― anchorwoman for local TV channel MBC, interviewer in a talk show and host of current affairs programs ― throughout her life she has dealt with facts, she says.
But this time, the former anchorwoman, now 50, has published a work of fiction, “Handstand.”
Sometimes a work of fiction can be a powerful medium to tell the truth, she said.
“Facts are usually concise and serve as an introduction (to a larger story),” the author told the media in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, on Tuesday.
“But a novel, within the frame of fiction, can delve into the details and the thought process on searching for the truth.”
Baik, who has authored nine memoirs in the past, wanted to write stories about many people ― of different age groups and backgrounds ― she met throughout her career. “I wanted to carry their voice through this work and communicate with a larger audience.”
The 323-page book centers on six high school friends. They reunite 27 years after graduation when a tragedy strikes one of them. The narrator of the story is Baik Min-soo, a professional interviewer, who illustrates the life story of each friend in an interview format.
She admitted that the story is motivated by the real-life tragedy of her friend in 1995.
“I was studying in Oxford at the time and the news really shocked me,” said Baik. “The time has gone by but I still think about her and the tragedy.”
Though the story is largely motivated by the event, she says the novel is not related to the actual incident, and the outcome took a very different turn.
“It’s 100 percent fictional,” Baik emphasized.
But she simply wanted to write about what she grasped through the course of time. “It made me realize that life, in some ways, is like doing a handstand. It can fall from top to bottom or move from light to shade, and vice versa.
“Sometimes, you have to see it from a different angle,” she added.
The narrator of the novel is an interviewer like her, but she also drew a clear line between herself and the protagonist of the story. “There is no Baik Ji-yeon in the story. I am only a writer, a writer who wrote the novel.”
Writing the novel was a healing process for her, said the author.
“Sometimes I forgot to eat and wrote for eight straight hours,” she said. “Writing fiction was very interesting and I was drawn into the limitless territory that the genre can delve into.”
“Frankly, when I was hosting a talk show on news topics, I was a bit distressed by the whole ‘my side your side’ frame,” she said. “Many programs tend to emphasize one side of the truth, or the opposite side of truth, rather than the real truth.”
“Maybe this triggered me to write a novel,” she said with a smile.
Baik thinks that news becomes bygone once it comes out of the mouth. “There is no tomorrow in news.
“But when I am writing a novel, I can embrace both past and present,” Baik said. “Even when I am living in the present, I can still talk about the past.”
She hopes that women of all ages will be able to relate to one of the six characters in her novel.
“Maybe the readers will find answers in life by talking with Baik Min-soo.”
When asked if another novel is on the radar, she said, “When I have abundant stories, I will write more.”
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com)