Conducted by: Gianna Adonteng
Sowon Kim is a strong-willed hardworking woman who was born in South Korea, and at only three months old moved to Peru with her parents so that they could continue helping and providing for those in need in developing countries. Ever since then, Sowon has made it important in her life to bring awareness to important issues and bring positive change to the world in any way possible. In this interview, she shares about her passions in life, her love for writing, and the campaigns she’s benefitted through her talents.
This worldwide pandemic threw all kinds of successful and hardworking people all across the globe for a loop. Throughout the pandemic, how have you managed to prioritize your time and keep fighting for the social issues that you are passionate about?
Putting my life together once the pandemic started was definitely not easy. There were countless things I had to adapt to, not only because of quarantine, but also because I had just entered middle school. What helped me organize my time and keep going was my desire to continue with the activities I truly loved. At first, I didn’t care about making time for my hobbies and passions as there were way too many things happening around me. However, as time passed, I realized how much I missed my passions. This motivated me to finally sit down and make a solid weekly schedule, which would allow me to continue fighting for social issues through my hobbies (writing, translating, etc.)
What impact did translating for multiple campaigns and non-profit organizations have on you, and what did you learn from the entire experience?
Translating for campaigns and organizations left a permanent (and positive) mark on me. Thanks to these experiences, I was not only able to develop my talent in linguistics, but I also had an extra insight of the diverse social issues happening around the world, like poverty. Many times, I had to translate in poor and vulnerable areas, which helped me gain consciousness of my privileges and fueled my desire to make a change in this world. There’s one main thing I learned from the entire experience- language isn’t just a communication tool. Knowing various languages can allow someone to understand more perspectives and cultures, thus gaining a wider and more flexible view of society.
Your short story “Psychodrama” tells a story about identity that so many people of color and people from foreign can understand from a young age. Above all things, it’s relatable. With your love of writing and your experiences with having to move to a new country at just three months old, do you plan to continue writing short stories to continue tackling important issues?
I definitely do plan on writing to continue tackling these issues, but perhaps not short stories. When writing about social issues, I prefer diving deep into them and not just touching the surface, but often, short stories don’t allow me to do that. This is mainly why writing longer stories (like novels and novellas) is my preference.
How has the writing process been going for “A Gleaming Shard of Glass”, a story whose first draft you began writing in August of 2020?
It’s been going amazingly well. I sent out the sixth draft to my third round of beta readers a few weeks ago, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, which I seriously didn’t expect. In a few days, I’ll start collecting feedback and editing my manuscript. By this point I’m so close to my characters that I could call them my best friends (as weird as that sounds.) Writing A Gleaming Shard of Glass really helped me cope with multiple problems I was going through. I can’t wait to share this story with the world, and maybe, inspire readers to raise their voices through it.
You seem to find enjoyment and passion in all things that you do, and a perfect example of that is all the activities and hobbies that you have found love in, such as swimming and surfing. What have you done throughout the pandemic while in quarantine to keep from feeling bored?
I don’t actually have any time to be bored, because my schedule is pretty packed. Mostly, I’ve been studying (both because of school and extracurriculars), working on my novel, A Gleaming Shard of Glass, translating various kinds of documents, and working for Lost Island Press as a content creator and translator. As an athlete, I have also been exercising. When all pools were closed, I exercised with my swim team through Zoom meetings at home, and occasionally played tennis with my brother. Now that pools have opened up, I swim 2 daily hours with my teammates. When I have free time, I binge-read any kind of book or listen to Ted-Talks of people sharing their experiences as third culture kids.
What is your favorite part about working for humanitarian campaigns and nonprofit organizations?
My favorite part is definitely being able to meet all kinds of new people. Every time I travel with my family to take part in humanitarian aid campaigns, I meet amazing people, many of whom become dear friends of mine.
Explain why you believe activism and support through translation is important.
Often, activists are prevented from taking larger steps because of language barriers. For example, a climate change activist, who also only speaks English, wouldn’t be able to send their message to non-English-speaking audiences. Translation is like a bridge that helps these activists cross barriers, send their message to a wider audience, take larger steps, and make a bigger impact on society.
Who inspires you the most to do what you do today?
My parents inspire me to keep fighting every day. I absolutely admire their dedication and solidarity with everyone that surrounds them. They decided to move to Peru when I was just three months old with the goal of helping those in need. They had to adapt to a whole new country and culture, learn a new language, go through racial microaggressions, and jump over many more hurdles (all while raising a new-born baby.) Although moving to a new country was never easy, their desire to aid the poor never faded, and I admire them greatly for that.
If you had one piece of advice for someone struggling with their identity after having lived in a foreign country all their life, what would it be?
In all honesty, I don’t think I’m ready to give advice on this yet. I’m still a teenager in middle school who goes through identity crises quite often, and I still have a long way to go. But if there was one thing I wanted to say to all the third culture kids out there, I’d say: Race is just a social construct. Culture is constantly changing. And lastly, your experiences as a third culture kid are very unique, and unique experiences are destined to shape great and distinctive lives.
Where can we learn more about you, your writing, and the organizations and campaigns that you translate for?
As of now, I don’t have a website, but you can follow me on Instagram (@esperanzakim__) to get updates on my current projects and my life in general. You can learn more about Lost Island Press (a hybrid-publishing house) here: https://www.lostislandpress.com/ , and learn more about Korea Food for the Hungry International here: https://eng.kfhi.or.kr/