Fiction

Altar of the Moon by Sim Yunkyung
Our family fortunes had been at their greatest around the time Wonchan, my twelfth great-grandfather and a man of great learning, finished his service as a department minister and returned to our hometown to build Hyogye Hall. After him, no one in our family served in any office higher than what could be gained by passing the civil service exam until my eighth great-grandfather Junmong. But the wealth Wonchan had amassed was so great that my ancestors were able to keep up appearances as a yangban family even without holding any official positions. After that, however, my family’s prestige declined...
Panmunjom by Lee Ho-cheol
The foreigners were quite at ease on the bus. But their sense of assurance seemed to collapse when they arrived at Panmunjom. They appeared rather out of place, wandering around with confused looks on their faces. Then they started taking pictures of everything that came in sight. The guy who had been going on mindlessly about Okinawa pointed his camera at a North Korean MP, who gave him a fierce look and turned abruptly on his heel. An uneasy smirk came over the reporter’s face; he turned away and walked over to one of his colleagues. “That guy’s not happy,”...
28 by Jeong You Jeong
He spent a week sleeping, his chin glued to the ground. In that time the man didn’t appear once. Nobody came by to give them water or food. Horrible things started happening to the dogs in the shed. At first it was just one or two, and then many. They began coughing and dripping foul-smelling snot before squirting diarrhea and collapsing, their chins and legs trembling. Two mornings ago, the man appeared. He cursed, looking at each of the dogs, and began to put healthy ones inside cages. He grabbed Ringo by the scruff of his neck and shoved him...
Ashes and Red by Pyun Hye Young
“May I take these?” the man asked. He had no idea what he was going to do with bug spray and rat poison. The rat poison might have been useful for analyzing existing products on the market when he started working at the head office, but surely someone there had already done that. As for bug spray, there was always a use for that. His apartment was probably crawling with insects from all the uncollected trash piled up outside. The pharmacist eyed him suspiciously and said, “That stuff won’t help your cold. You know that, right? As long as you...
Zombies by Kim Junghyuk
At that time, I was living out of my car. I went around with all my belongings packed in the backseat and the cargo space of the van that the company gave me for work. “All my belongings” consisted of two boxes of clothes and three boxes of sundry items. After loading the fifty vinyl records in the car, I felt like I had suddenly become wealthier. The backseat became more crowded and one of the boxes had to be placed in the passenger seat. It felt somewhat idiotic to carry around records that I couldn’t even listen to, but...
Rina by Kang Young-sook
The soldiers slowly approached the twenty-two escapees, guns leveled. One of the escapees, a teenage girl who had been licking her lips with a parched tongue, jumped up and opened her mouth to say something. “We said, don’t move!” the soldiers yelled. The girl dropped back down to her knees and watched the soldiers. Although they were carrying guns, they too had hunger written all over their faces. The girl’s name was Rina.* She was short and had a thin face with yellow pimples on her forehead. Rina was sixteen years old, and her parents had been coalminers back home...
The Song of the Earth by Lee Seung-U
1 Hu did not see the earth swallow the people. He was somewhere else when it happened. People said he was lucky, but from time to time he thought, It would’ve been better if the earth had swallowed me up. The thought came to him when he felt helpless or humiliated living above ground. He himself couldn’t really understand how he felt, wondering, It can’t be that different under the ground, but how do I know when I’ve never been down there? Sometimes he suddenly thought out loud, I wonder how those people are doing down there, even though there...
Spectators by Yoon Sunghee
As soon as he saw that the van had flipped over, Younger Uncle hated himself for what he’d said about his mother’s cooking that morning. His ex-girlfriend was right after all; when she left him, she said, “You don’t know how to sugarcoat anything.” “Mom, are you okay?” he yelled toward the van. But his words got buried under the screams coming from up the road and didn’t reach the van. He thought: If something happens to Mom, I’m going to starve myself and die. As he crawled toward the van, he had a gut feeling that his right leg...
Majestic by Song Sokze
She must make a choice now. Up ahead she can see a mailbox lettered with Kim Yosan’s pseudonym, “Kim Young-sun” and the address of River Village. Because postmen and deliverymen can’t go all the way out to River Village, Yosan built a mailbox here so they could leave mail and parcels inside. If she turns toward River Village at the mailbox and walks into the mountains, the Mercedes might just leave. The trail looks so forbidding that it’s probably impossible for a high-end passenger car to drive on. But Sae-mi might cause an even bigger problem if she appears too...
Black Island by Kim Hoon
Translator’s Note Black Island: Between Heaven and Earth In the kingdom of Joseon in the 19th century, Catholicism was a dangerous religion. The Neo-Confucian ruling elite viewed the faith as subversive to the feudal social order and converts faced deadly consequences: Over the course of the century, more than 10,000 men and women lost their lives on charges of heresy. Kim Hoon’s novel Black Island is set against the backdrop of the Catholic Persecution of 1801, the first in a series of cruel suppressive measures that continued for a century until Joseon’s demise, in the end, under imperialist aggression by...

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