The Journey to Meet Lo Kiwan by Cho Haejin

I Met Lo Kiwan is my second novel. It tells the story of three principal characters: Lo Kiwan, who leaves North Korea for Belgium and applies for refugee status there; South Korean writer Kim, who goes on a wild-goose chase after Lo Kiwan in Belgium, and later, England; and Park Yoon-cheol, who aids Lo Kiwan and brings Lo and Kim together. What connects these seemingly random characters is their pain. Each suffers from the guilt that they owe their lives to another’s sacrifice, or the feeling that they are somehow responsible for another’s death. United by this shared guilt, the three characters find ways to heal each other. At least, that is what I hoped for when I wrote this novel.

     Lo Kiwan is a North Korean defector who goes to Belgium by way of Yanbian. After losing his mother in Yanbian, Lo suffers from survivor’s guilt, only to find that he must battle again for his survival, this time against social exclusion and the language barrier as a foreigner. After many trials and a lengthy wait, he finally gains refugee status and leaves for England in hope of a better life.

     Kim, the other main character, is the head writer for a popular, human interest-based television program that relies on viewer donations. She quits her job one day after discovering that one of the program’s subjects has met a terrible fate because ...

Cho Haejin (b.1976) debuted when she won the New Writer’s Awards and was published by the quarterly magazine Munye Joongang in 2006. She authored the short story collection City of Angels and the novels I Met Lo Kiwan and A Forest That No One Has Seen.