I just learned about Djuna, a South Korean pseudonymous writer of novels, short stories, and film critique. Their identity is unknown, but I'm wondering if they are definitely one person, or could they be a group of writers operating under a shared pseudonym?

Wikipedia says that "Djuna prefers the personal pronoun "they"", which one might assume means singular they (although they write in Korean and I don't know how pronouns work in that language). But the cited source for that claim is a dead link, and Wikipedia also says:

They explain the name Djuna as follows: "We just took the name for our ID for HiTel, as we were reading the book of Djuna Barnes.[6] The capitalization was due to the Caps Lock key, and we felt it would be a bit strange not to capitalize a name."[citation needed]

The linked source doesn't include this exact quote, so I don't know where it comes from, but the usage of "we" as a first-person pronoun made me wonder if they could be actually more than one person. It's very rare in English for a single person to use a plural first-person pronoun (only British royals, AFAIK), but would that make more sense in Korean? Does Korean use an equivalent of singular they, or are Djuna's pronouns in Korean unambiguously plural?

  • The dead wikipedia link is available at the Wayback machine. It's a fascinating article, but it doesn't say anything about Djuna preferirng the personal pronoun "they", although it does mention the rumors that Djuna may be male, female, or a group of writers. Jan 28 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


TLDR: Even Korean sources and publishers of English translations don't know.


Even the Korean sources on the Korean Wikipedia article allow no certainty about this. The section titled "얼굴 없는 작가" (A Faceless Writer) says,

There are various speculations about D[j]una's identity, including that she is a woman and that it is the pen name of a collaborative creative group of three people.
Considering that it was written by several people, the writing style and theme are surprisingly consistent, so they are thought to be one person, but judging from the fact that they often refer to themselves with the pronoun 'we', it can also be assumed that it is a creative group made up of multiple people. do. In fact, some articles were signed as ‘D[j]una and Paprika’ or ‘D[j]una and the gang’ at the time of publication, and there are cases where the pronoun ‘we’ is used on the bulletin board of the website directly operated.[7]
Whether D[j]una's identity is a specific individual or a group remains an ambiguous issue, but even if it is a group, the most influential view is that the key figure among them is a woman born in 1971.[8] In a 2009 article, the editor-in-chief of a magazine serialized by Duna confirmed that the account into which D[j]una’s fees were deposited belonged to ‘Lee Young-su’ (38, female).[9]
In an article titled "The State of Korean Science Fiction"[10], Kim Jae-kook commented on Duna's short story The Seventh Star, saying, "Through this work, we can infer the identity of the author as a woman. Not only does the story revolve around the female protagonist, but the specific descriptions of the food and cooking are so specific that it would be impossible for anyone other than a woman." However, there is also a counter-argument that "judging the gender of an artist based on the subject of 'cooking' is an anachronistic idea"[11].

The above was translated using Lingva. Lingva translates "듀나" as Duna, but the Korean Wikipedia articles contains the description "DJUNA" (capitalised because the Caps Lock key was stuck when the pseudonym was created).

Pantheon (owned by Penguin Random House), who published the English translation of the novel Counterweight, doesn't provide details on the author page. Kaya Press writes on the author page,

Since debuting online in 1994, Djuna has maintained strict separation between their digital persona “Djuna” and the human(s) the lay behind it.

Curiously, the second character of the Korean pseudonym can also be used as a first person singular pronoun: 나 (na).

The Wikipedia article about Korean pronouns points out that Korean has no third-person pronouns; the third-person pronouns listed there "have restrictive use in certain writing genres". The FluentU article Korean Pronouns: The Complete Guide to the Different Types and How to Use Them provides a bit more details:

Technically, “he” and “she” in Korean is translated as 그 and 그녀 respectively. However, you’ll rarely hear these words coming out of a native speaker’s mouth. You’ll mostly find it in Korean textbooks, songs or poems. 걔 (gyae), meaning “that boy or girl,” is used instead.

Korean is also one of those languages that drop pronouns whenever possible, which, combined with the above, renders a "singular they" redundant. For this reason, I don't believe the "we" in the English Wikipedia article somehow renders this type of concept.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.