2024 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Adult second place (tie)

Title: That Which Lies Between in Kim Bo-young’s “I’m Waiting for You”

The anonymous narrator, in Kim Bo-young’s “I’m Waiting for You,” stands alone, reflecting on clipped, brief words. Though fragmentary and hidden in a city of ruins, these words reaffirmed the most steadfast truth he had ever known. Kim’s narrative centers on interstellar travel, she explores humanity's connection to love, communication, and the passage of time. This contemporary science-fiction drama engages with Ursula K. Le Guin’s claim that science fiction serves as metaphor, grounded in scientific principles, yet allows for speculative elements and the inclusion of pseudoscientific garbage—PSG. The story uses time dilation and the challenges of interstellar space travel to heighten the emotional stakes of this love story. The narrative’s speculative elements, such as faster-than-light travel, create a parallel to the exploration of the nature of human connections, the resilience of unwavering commitment, and the experience of time. “I’m Waiting for You” explores how science fiction can use genre conventions with scientific speculation to mirror truths about humanity, suggesting that in the face of technological advancement and overall uncertainty, the simplest aspects of human existence—love, faith, and the written word—endure.

This short story reevaluates the traditional understanding of time and reality, since both are not often thought of as being created or constructed. They are often regarded as being true, finite, unchanging. They are both means that we, as humans, exist within. Throughout the narrative, time exists within different measures. The characters in this text encounter time differently. They have the ability to exist in time outside of the confines of earth’s fast-paced measure of time; the narrative appears to exploit the overarching relational challenges that persist because of time itself.

Kim challenges the conventional understanding of time and space, playing on the scientific principle of time dilation to create a narrative that transcends the timeline which we now participate in. This creates not only a sense of disarray; rather, it emphasizes the resilience and adaptability of true human connection in the face of uncertainty—in and outside of the bounds of time. “I’m Waiting for You” suggests that even as Earth fades and humanity reverts back to more primal ways of existence, the human capacity for love and the desire for true communication persists; it transcends both the physical and temporal barriers imposed by interstellar travel. Kim’s exploration of time as a malleable construct further amplifies the present relational tension, making the eventual return to Earth all the more intriguing.

The choice to utilize letters as the primary mode of communication between the separated lovers appears to be rather deliberate as it creates an emphasis on simplicity and endurance in this relationship. In an era where technological advancements are assumed to have peaked, the narrative suggests that the most basic forms of connection—represented by the written word—remain the most resilient. This choice challenges the reader to reconsider the value of simplicity, while also suggesting that love, like the written word, transcends the bounds of time and space.

However, it is notable that these letters are only available through mediation. He does not get the physical copy of the letter, but a transcription of the letter, leaving components of the letter ambiguous. This creates further tension in the return to Earth, as the narrator finds himself seemingly alone, admits ruins, with only the church and letters—fragmented notes—from his fiancée remaining. “I’m waiting for you” hangs upon the wall placed behind the altar, in the church where they were to marry (Kim 45). “I’m still here” is written and layered on top (Kim 45). “Don’t forget me” is stuck just behind the others (Kim 45). These words hold nothing seismic in themselves, but these stacked notes serve as a declaration of her commitment and the transcendent nature of her love as she hangs these promises at the altar.

Throughout the narrative, there is a prevalent theme of the old and the new and the bounds that lay between—a theme that is ever present in the genre of science-fiction. In the final days of Earth, there is a sense of reversion; there is a present restoration that appears to exist in the narrator's return home. The presentation of pseudoscientific garbage advances the narrative, as it plays into the disillusionment of the narrator. He is trapped within a cycle, heavily influenced by external elements. He begins so certain, but as the very nature he exists within begins to shift, he becomes doubtful. In the midst of the rubble he finds refuge; he returns home. Through her written words, scattered and concise, they offer the restorative truth that their love has transcended time itself. Within this he once more gains the certainty that was lost among the stars. Kim Bo-young’s “I’m Waiting for You” uses pseudoscientific aspects to emphasize the power and durability of the most simple aspects of humanity—unwavering love and the written word.

Works Cited
“I’m Waiting for You by Kim Bo-Young.” Issuu, issuu.com/sejongculturalsociety/docs/kim_bo-young-im_waiting_for_you_-_hi?ff. Accessed 13 Feb. 2024.