Why I Chose My Pen Name.
So, I did a lot of thinking and researching about pen names in general. Pen names are chosen for various different reasons. For instance, some authors want to write in several genres, or an author’s name is not fitting for their genre. For example, Johnny flowers is not going to be a good horror genre name. Moreover, Archibald Stonemason is not going to be a good romantic genre name. Also, some people have the same name as other authors. If your last name is King, you should probably use a pen name. Stephen King wrote once as Richard Bachman because he wrote so many novels that year that his publisher thought nobody was going to buy anything more from him. J.K. Rowling was forced to take that name because her publisher thought kids wouldn’t buy fantasy books from women (sexist much?), I guess you can see why I self-publish. Anyhow, some people want to hide their identity to protect their day job or family from knowing about what they are writing, often an erotic novel or something controversial. Likewise, some people just want to be anonymous, so to speak, if they’re writing something controversial. Some people just like the style of using a pen name too. So, why did I choose a pen name and why did I pick this specific name? firstly, I decided to choose a pen name because it’s just damn cool. Well, to be honest I have a very boring, extremely mundane name, as well, and I’m a nobody, so who cares about my name. I mean historically lots of authors used to pick interesting pen names; it ‘seems’ like in the modern era, it’s less common though. Secondly, I do want some anonymity in today’s crazy connected day and age. I doubt 99% of you could track me down to some random place in South Korea regardless, it makes me sleep better at night knowing there are not random people trying to find information about me, or stalk me on the internet. Actually, my name is so common, even if you had it, you would literally get thousands, if not tens of thousands of people with my name coming up on social media. I once typed it into Facebook for fun, and it had thousands of hits from what I remember. Furthermore, I do enjoy my privacy, I think being a celebrity would be the worst thing in the world. Not being able to go anywhere without being harassed by random people is like being in jail in its own way. Thirdly, as an author I do want the ability to write about controversial political or societal issues. To be able to express myself and views freely. Today’s political climate has gotten far too out of hand with death threats and online harassment. Even the US government is trying to get personal data on protestors from a popular anti-government website, currently as I write this.
Why Dongbaek Sasang?
Well, to start off, its Korean, if you didn’t know it’s spelled like this 동백 사상. I’m not Korean or ethnically Korean. I’m a Canadian living in South Korea, and we will leave it at that for now. Most Korean people when they read the pen name are very confused and weirded out by it because it basically makes no sense if you’re a native Korean speaker from the area. Dongbaek is the Korean word for the Camilla Flower and Sasang-gu is a socio-economically struggling district in Busan. When I read about pen names, some articles said choose a name that means something to you, so I chose this name because it actually does mean quite a lot to me. Dongbaek Island is a place in Busan I went on a date with my wife when we first started dating. It’s a very beautiful coastal trail with annually blooming Camillia flowers. Also, an APEC summit was held there as well. All the major world leaders at the time went there at one time. As well, part of the Busan city anthem is translated from Korean as, “A place where Camilla flowers bloom.” And I heard a professional choir sing it live on New Year’s Eve one time with my wife in Nampo, so it means a lot to me in terms of Busan being my new home. Similarly, my best friend and I had some of the best summer time adventures at the Camilla forest in Geoje Island walking along the boulders on the beach looking at islands out at sea while free style rocking climbing up into the Camilla Forest and finding an abandoned military base and old Korean people fishing on the cliffs while we drank Makoli. So, that is where the Camilla part holds meaning in my life.
The other part is Sasang. Sasang is a poor working-class area of Busan that I first landed in back in 2013. My first job was teaching English at a government subsidized community center there. It was a tough job to say the least because the students from that socio-economic level tend to have behavioral problems as well as come from broken homes. I first hand saw the effects of poverty and forced unemployment. It’s a place I draw inspiration from to this day when I think of class struggles, poverty, and inequality in the world. You will see these themes in my works to come. Another inspiration from Sasang was the local politician in my district at the time. He is the current president now. He’s a man that defied the odds to become president after a crushing defeat, a few years back. He’s a man who dreamt big and challenges the deeply conservative entrenched political system in Korea. A true reformer, voted in by people who were terrified of him a few years ago, to take a sledge hammer to political and corporate corruption, and Korean society as a whole. I witnessed and documented the movement to impeach Park Gyeun-Hye and found it to be a once in a life time impossible outcome, that I will never forget. It truly was an inspiring and hopeful experience. It really gave me hope for humanity and inspired me to try to achieve any goal I want. The fact the Korean population was able to peaceful rise up against an authoritarian leader like her, and toppler her peacefully was an incredible feat. To sum it up, the President at the time Park Gyeun-Hye was ruling over a seemingly untouchable political dynasty. Her father was a controversial authoritarian dictator that ruled the country with an iron fist but, achieved boundless economic development until his assassination in 1979. Her father is revered by the older generation that saw South Korea go from literally one of the poorest countries in the world to, literally one of the richest in the world. And these elderly people went out and voted, unconditionally, every time, while younger voter were apathetic and didn’t give a damn. So, you can see her party and mandate being almost politically untouchable by any opposition. Her party was sweeping local and national elections handily. After about 4 years into her 5-year mandate, shit hit the fan so to speak. The Korean economy was in shambles and her administration was flowing with corruption, not even seen to the level for a country, where not getting arrested as president raises the bar. She also used the national police agency to arrest her political opposition. I remember the day reading in the news the speaker of the house, chairwoman of the opposition and senior opposition politicians were arrested on bullshit charges or “illegal campaigning” because they said untrue things during the national assembly election. That day still brings a shiver down my spine. The cherry on the cake was her letting her best friend have an unofficial high-level position in the presidential administration which she and the president took tens of millions of dollars in bribes from head of Korean business conglomerates. This all came to light when her friend threw out a computer with confidential documents on it and a reporter found it. This lead to the unraveling of her administration and multiple high-level arrests. Koreans took to the streets in protest for 4 months straight often drawing over a million protesters at a time throughout the country. She was impeached by well over 2/3rds of National Assembly, and it was unanimously confirmed by the supreme court. A snap election was held and Moon dominated. Moon was elected to reform the country and implement a progressive agenda while the former president is sitting in jail. From his humble beginnings in Sasang to the Blue house, was really an amazing thing to witness. He led a seemingly impossible movement to topple an increasingly authoritarian leader. I would also like to note I’m not blindly allegiant to anyone. I will judge President Moon fairly by what he accomplishes. I still don’t really trust any politician.
Lastly, Dongbeak Sasang is a symbol of hope. A metaphor for the flower in the Sasang. The beautiful flower that bloomed in such a troubled place. The hope that maybe one day we can have a better life for ourselves, within such an oppressing system we opposed on ourselves.