The Animal Inside Them: Lumière People by Chang Kang-myoung

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.19 Spring 2013
  • byJung Eunkyoung
Lumière People

Chang Kang-myoung’s novel Lumière People contains a series of stories about the people who live in the Lumière Building. At a quick glance, the book seems to be about about the brilliant lives of the people living there as the word “lumière” suggests, meaning light or hope. In reality, the title is paradoxical, as the book is about the people who are degenerating as capitalist prisoners in this “bright” city.

The people Chang Kang-myoung invents are as complex as the old area of Seoul, Sinchon, where the building is located. There is the young pregnant girl and the runaway boy in apartment 801; the workaholic, the bar hostess, and the waiter in apartment 802; the hearing-impaired person in apartment 803; and the debtor and the second-generation chaebol, or conglomerate heir, in apartment 805. However, these are all people who live outside the realm of what is considered acceptable in society, qualifying them as losers.

For example, in “801 - The Batboy,” a runaway boy who breaks away from the school system becomes a real-life batboy; in “808 - The Rats Underground Kingdom,” the abandoned teenagers take the shape of rat people. The exaggerated animal depictions are also applied to 802’s workaholic, 805’s debtor, and to the second-generation chaebol.

“805 – Hit Him with a Wad of Cash” plays out the extreme behavior of the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The rule of the game is to take turns hitting the designated person with a bundle of money until the person getting hit asks them to stop, making the person doing the hitting a winner. The debtor Jeong-min, who takes part in this game, makes 140 million won as the person getting hit and comforts himself by telling himself that “getting beaten up is kind of work.” All the participants of this game, are relegated to the animal world and are merely seen as the ringleaders of capitalism.

Through deficient or excessive application of animal characteristics, Lumière People makes us question what it means to be human as well as consider the value of dignity and truth. 

Author's Profile

Chang Kang-myoung has published eight novels, one short story collection, and one essay collection. He has received the Surim Literary Award, Jeju 4•3 Peace Prize, and Munhakdongne Writer Award. Before turning to writing, he worked as a journalist for over a decade and received the Journalist of the Month Award from the Journalists Association of Korea, Kwanhun Club Press Award, and Dong-A Ilbo Press Award.