A Republic Reborn: The Solsom Chronicles (3 volumes) by Ahn Junghyo

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.15 Spring 2012
  • byPark Hyekyung
The Solsom Chronicles (3 volumes)

For many years, Ahn Junghyo translated and introduced foreign literature to Korea. After he turned 40, however, he published his first novel titled The White War about the Vietnam War. Following this work, he wrote about the Korean War and became known for creating meaty and masculine, yet realistic stories. His latest work, The Solsom Chronicles, is an allegory of modern Korean history and possesses a very strong political flavor.

The book begins with a somewhat absurd premise: the sudden emergence of a large island, Solsum, near the Korean peninsula. Soon there is a mass exodus of politically ambitious Koreans who establish a new republic there. The ensuing drama of political intrigue, regime change, and power struggles is an exaggerated metaphor for the unfolding of modern Korean history.

The novel is a comic parody in the form of a political fable with elements of fantasy. Modern Korea's byzantine intrigues from the Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan regimes to the present day become targets for caustic satire. The author sharply caricatures the greedy and corrupt profiteers in modern Korean history, who stop at nothing to seize money and power, and paints a hellish picture of their antics.

In this hell, the politicos, the media, rich conglomerates, and gangsters are constantly engaged in realigning themselves with one another in a sleazy and repulsive serenade. The author ends the story with a catastrophic scene reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah—a swarm of giant octopi attack Solsum Island, which sinks deep into the sea. This motif, taken from Christian eschatology, is the author's punishment for human arrogance, self-righteousness, and endless greed.