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Becoming a CyborgKim Cho-yeop, Kim Won-young

“This will not be an easy thing to imagine, but I believe a future where all the vulnerable people could exist comfortably in their own skin would be a more liberating place than a future where all its members are strong and capable. Rather than a future where there is no discernable damage, it is a more open future where painful, damaged, incapacitated bodies are welcomed as members of its world (p. 281–282).

『Becoming a Cyborg』

Authors : Kim Cho-yeop, Kim Won-young
Publisher : Sakyejul
Publication date : January 15, 2021
Number of pages : 368
Format : 140x210mm
ISBN : 9791160947045

Kim Cho-yeop, Kim Won-young

Kim Cho-yeop Kim Cho-yeop debuted in 2017 by winning both Grand Prize and runner-up prize at the Korea Literary Prize for Science Fiction with Irretrievable and If We Can’t Move at the Speed of Light. She has published If We Can’t Move at the Speed of Light and The Girl in the Cylinder, and is the recipient of Today's Writer Prize in 2019 and Young Authors Award in 2020. She has an acquired hearing loss. Kim Won-young Studied sociology and law in college and worked at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea after law school. He is currently working as an author, actor and lawyer. He is the author of An Advocate for the Disqualified and Desire In the Place of Hope. He participated in the plays Act on the Anti-Discrimination and Remedies in Love and Friendship and The Struggle for Recognition: The Artist Section as an actor. He uses a wheelchair.

For A Nonchalant Coexistence


The publication of Becoming a Cyborg is making big waves not only in the publishing field, but in the art world in general. First, the book is a collaboration between Kim Cho-yeop, a prolific science fiction novelist, and Kim Won-young, a lawyer, author and someone who is more familiar as an actor and dancer to those who frequent the theater often, including myself. The second intriguing factor of this book is that the concept of “cyborg,” a portmanteau of cybernetic and organism, is the central theme discussed, along with anecdotes from the everyday lives of the authors of this book, who live with prosthetic assistance. The book consists of ten chapters where the writings of Kim Cho-yeop and Kim Won-young overlap. After the chapters of the main text, you can find included the recorded, then edited dialogue between the two authors. Considering the authors’ past activities, I’d assumed their new book would be a hybrid between a novel and a legal document. Half looking forward to it, and half expecting to be puzzled by it, I braced myself for a difficult read. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find minute contemplations on contemporary debate (such as “Crip Technoscience” that “aims at the realization of techno-politics designed and built by the disabled and the disabled community, not technology for the disabled.” (p.187)), and the stories concerning “the cyborgs in the real world” who constantly “strive to hide and obscure themselves” (p.135). In other words, the cyborgs in Becoming a Cyborg are neither “a superhero wearing an Iron Man suit, flying across the sky and the sea, nor is it a marvelous symbol of a hybrid being that crosses the line between normal and abnormal” (p.113), but was presented as a flexible, everyday patchwork for relationships, much like “packing tape” (p.107) that you could find in any household, or “the simplest, the most effective technology for binding two things together.”

And, at the bottom of all the language that creates a flow in the authors’ thoughts; at the bottom of all the language that creates a link between the “metaphors that were never easy” or the “clear thought with no residue,” there is the layer of shared, or respective, experience that has been accumulating in the minds and the bodies of the two authors. When taking into consideration the disabilities of Kim Cho-yeop, who started wearing hearing aids when she was first diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss at the age of 16, and that of Kim Won-young, who has frequented orthopedic clinics from the age of one, the vast difference in the visibility of their disability and the individuals’ respective approach to their adaptations warn us against homogenizing understanding of all states of disability or people in that state. Kim Cho-yeop, with her not-so-visible hearing aid, confesses that it’s “not an object of projection for [her] disability, but just a slightly cumbersome aid,” whereas Kim Won-young, with a much more visible disability, claims he feels “naked without [his] wheelchair” (p. 336). On the other hand, the shared experiences of the two authors are impactful, in that they make us reconsider our common perception of physical disability as the dysfunction of a certain body part. According to Kim Won-young, disability is more than a mere lack of certain physical functions, but rather a “sort of status for someone that has achieved a social evaluation of a ‘body that is not normal.’” So, even if a highly developed technology could make up for lacking functions, disability would still exist” (p. 155). In that aspect, when Kim Cho-yeop speaks of accessible building design and suggests that “disability is not an inevitable result of damage, but a concept that may be redefined according to space” (p. 194), we begin to naturally rethink the factors in our everyday lives that render physical disability a state of want and incapability. To explore the potential of things that might be here now, rather than imagining a transcendental world where impossible or insurmountable things become possible. To call up and put into practice different ways one could not be different. Wouldn’t that be where the liberating future, as narrated by Kim Cho-yeop, would be recalled?


By Son Ok-ju
Researcher in Performance Art

Translated by