Fiction

Your Republic Is Calling You by Kim Young-ha
Your Republic Is Calling You tells the story of a spy who receives a mysterious calling to return back “home” to the North. He has 24-hours to gather up the loose ends of his bourgeois life in the South. In the 1980s, when Ki-yong was in college, South Korea was closer to North Korea than it was to today’s South. Jobs were guaranteed for life and college students never worried about their futures. The banks and conglomerates, with their lobbies of imported marble, seemed indestructible. Adult children took care of their parents and respected them. The president was chosen by...
The Comedian Who Went to the Moon by Kim Yeonsu
“The Comedian Who Went to the Moon” is a novella about a woman’s search for her father, a comedian who vanished at the height of his popularity. It won the 2007 Hwang Sun-won Literary Award, and was included in Kim’s short story collection, World’s End Girlfriend, which was published in September of 2009. Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the book. It was December 24, 2000, eighteen years after a man made his journey into the desert. I was invited to a party by an older alumnus friend in celebration of his recent appointment as full-time professor. There,...
I Bought a Balloon by Jo Kyung Ran
The following excerpt is from the title story in Jo Kyung Ran’s fifth short story collection, I Bought a Balloon . The collection was awarded the Dong-in Literary Prize in 2008. His therapeutic process didn’t look smooth or easy. Working on a daily journal was one of the many chores he had as part of his therapy. If his doctor gave him an assignment to drive around downtown, he had to record when he did it, who he did it with, and what degree of anticipatory anxiety he would feel. And how he would get beyond his anxiety if panic...
“His House” by Park Wansuh
The following excerpt is from the short story “His House” in Park Wansuh’s short story collection Kindhearted Bokhee . The short story was first published in the 2002 summer issue of Literature and Society , and it was the basis of Park’s novel His House , published in 2004. The novel is a semi-autobiographical exploration of the writer’s first great love during her twenties. That summer, even in the midst of the North Korean invasion, his older brother managed to maintain a stable status and avoid becoming a target of the purges. Still, as they say, we each have but...
Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-sook
Shin Kyung-sook’s latest book Please Look After Mom is a novel about a mother gone missing and her family, told from the shifting points of view of the family members. The following excerpt is from the opening of the book’s first chapter. It has been a week since Mom was lost. Gathered at Older Brother’s home, your family decided, after much deliberation, to print a flyer and hand out copies around where Mom was lost. You would start with drafting a copy for the flyer. The old-fashioned way. A member of the family was lost, not just any member but...
The Song of the Sword by Kim Hoon
Song of the Sword is a first-person narrative told in the voice of historical hero Admiral Yi Sun-sin. It is an intimate and existential monologue of a man confronted with the harsh realities of war, loss, and indignity. The book begins in the year Jeongyu (1597), five years into the war against Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion. The following is the novel’s first chapter, which opens as Yi arrives back on the southern coast, released after torture and interrogation as a result of intrigue against him in the capital. TEARS OF THE SWORD Flowers blossomed on each deserted island. The islands billowed...
The Guest by Hwang Sok-yong
Through the entangled past of three brothers, The Guest explores the wounds and deep suffering that people endured during the Korean War and during Korean modern history at large. The Guest was serialized in the Hankook Ilbo from October 2000 to March 2001. The following excerpt is from chapters 10 and 11 out of 12 chapters. 10 Burning the Clothes BURIAL SETTING OUT FROM his uncle’s place in Some, Yosŏp and the guide climbed into the car and headed towards town. Cautiously, Yosŏp asked the guide in the front seat, “Would it be possible to drop by Ch’ansaemgol on the...
The Jovian Sayings by Bok Geo-il
#418 To a politician, nothing is more important than choosing one’s foe well. If one chooses a man too strong for oneself as one’s foe, one will be in mortal danger. If one chooses a small man as one’s foe, one will become small oneself. If one’s attention is fixed to a false foe, one won’t be ready when a real foe appears. When one destroys all visible foes, there will arise an invisible foe within one’s bosom. - Miriam Hahn On coming to power, Timothy Goldstein (2773-2895), president of East Ganymede, began to persecute Chris Hermann, who had competed...
A Day in the Life of a Man Who Worries About Trivial Things as a Profession by Bok Geo-il
Chapter 5 These Shining Works of Literature The pedestrian path is narrow. A narrow path has been paved along the banks of a brook, and over half of it has been taken over by the bike lane, so one has to be careful not to knock into others out for a walk. It is a nice spring day, and so there’re many people about. “Hi,” waves and greets a little girl when their eyes meet. She looks to be about three years old walking down the path with her grandmother. The girl stares at I-rip. It seems she doesn’t know...

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