Fiction

History and Longing: Black Flower by Kim Young-ha
Kim Young-ha has built a reputation as a novelist who has captured the experience of the youth of Korea, the Internet generation, accomplished but disillusioned, living life in the fast track in Seoul. Accomplished and talented, published successfully in Europe, he has, in his novel Black Flower , come to fruition as a mature novelist. He has claimed in an interview that marriage has changed him by calming him down so that he can concentrate on narrative and story. If marriage gets the credit for producing a novel as magnificent as Black Flower , it should be a required state...
Gwanchon Essays: A Search for Healing Among the Ruins
Lee Mun Ku was born in 1941 into a yangban family, Korea’s traditional ruling class. But his family was ruined when his father, an activist in a socialist movement, wa skilled during the Korean War. Afterwards, Lee left his hometown and earned his living as a manual laborer and peddler in Seoul. He made his debut as a novelist in 1966 and attracted attention with his unique style, based on his use of dialect. Gwanchon Essays is a serialized novel comprised of eight stories written between 1972 and 1977. It is widely regarded as a classic Korean novel. Gwanchon Essays...
A Modern Classic: A Stranger's Room by Choi Inho
Choi Inho first began writing when he turned 17 in 1963. Considering how he was only a high school student, there is no doubt of his brilliance. This is evidenced by his remarks on his two short stories, “The Boozer” (1970) and “A Stranger’s Room” (1971), which earned him a reputation as one of the most controversial novelists of the 1970s. According to Choi, “The Boozer” was completed in a mere two hours, while “A Stranger’s Room” was written overnight for the first issue of Literature and Intelligence . Choi has been astonishingly productive both inside and outside literary circles...
A Meal with the Poor: Children of Gwaengiburimal by Kim Jung-mi
In 2012, the world was delighted by PSY’s music video for “Gangnam Style.” Gangnam is now recognized as a cool spot filled with beautiful men and women, trendsetters, “it” items, and the hottest entertainment. Many people around the world say they would love to visit Gangnam. Without a doubt, it is the hip place to be. But just like any other country, for every place where the sun shines, there is another that lives in the shadows. Children of Gwaengiburimal leads readers to a village that is the opposite of Gangnam. Even though it is nothing like Gangnam, the village...
In Search of a Lost Past: Who Ate Up All the Shinga? by Park Wansuh
Park Wansuh was an outstanding storyteller and prolific writer who filled Korean literature with spirit and vigor. Park’s novels are characterized by her straightforward and penetrating style. Her style, which is like a skillful weaving of boldness and sensitivity makes readers feel as if they are touching a piece of smooth fabric. In particular, her ability to expose selfishness, secular greed, falsity, and accurately depict multiple layers of human psychology is unrivaled. Her infinite narrative imagination is based on her own experiences that were more dramatic than her novels. Her childhood and youth coincided with the most turbulent period of...
Origins of the Korean Fantasy Novel: Dragon Raja (8 Vols.) by Lee Young-do
In the history of Korean novels, Dragon Raja is classified as a unique work. As showcased by the first-ever Korean novel, The Story of Hong Gil-dong , readers can easily find Korean authors who use their imagination to create a world of reality and fantasy filled with exotic adventures and characters brandishing words and magical powers. Traditionally, friendship, love, struggle etc. with imaginary creatures such as Dokkaebi(Korea hobgoblins), Golden Pig, and the Dragon King of the Sea have been infused into a rich repertoire in Korean novels. Lee Young-do, who wrote Dragon Raja , departed from this tradition and adopted...
Solidarity in Suffering and Hope: A Distant and Beautiful Place by Yang Gui-ja
Yang Gui-ja closely examines the pains and struggles of the daily lives of the poor and downtrodden. Her characters, oblivious to the source of their sufferings, often cling to a false hope that plunges them further into the depths of sorrow and ruin. But even as she depicts a landscape of despair, Yang speaks of hope — a true empathic message of those who have known despair and pain. Yang’s short story collection expresses passionate faith in humanity’s dream of solidarity as we live in solitary pain. A Distant and Beautiful Place is a series of short stories all set...
Love Conquers All: My Sister, Mongsil by Kwon Jeong Saeng
My Sister, Mongsil is set in the tumult and tragedy of modern Korean history, illustrating the vivid effects on individual lives. In the midst of such great historical storms, the most pressing issue for the protagonist Mongsil is poverty. As her family is torn apart by poverty and put together again, Mongsil holds onto her faith in love and hope and keeps her spirits high despite the brutal times. Mongsil is the daughter of a yumin , also known as “Japanese pauper,” who returned to Korea after liberation from Japanese occupation, and was considered the lowest of the low at...
Lessons from Life’s Minor League: Sammi Superstars' Last Fan Club by Park Min-gyu
Is it true what they say, that passion is what drives humans to life? Isn’t passion a kind of self-hypnosis that drives one towards a hallucination of one’s own making? Invisible but powerful forces, such as enthusiasm and wonder, for instance, compel one towards a mysterious end. They say that sport is an illusion used by a state to mobilize its people. But if not for sports, would people be able to put up with this insane civilization in which they are driven to near insanity and want to go insane but can’t? Humans are creatures of illusion. Sammi Superstars'...
Death Reborn: I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Kim Young-ha
Kim Young-ha’s I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (1996) connects reality and illusion and life and death in the way a Mobius strip creates a curved surface with an indistinguishable inside and outside. His novel shakes the dichotomous perception of reality vs. illusion and life vs. death to the core. The novel poses the question: If humans desire life, couldn’t they also desire death, which is a part of life? Can’t our desires advance beyond life and reach the realm of death? In I Have the Right to Destroy Myself , life, illusion, death, and desire travel across each...

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