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FICTION

How to Heal Wounds: Yeongran by Gong Sun-Ok

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.11 Spring 2011
  • byCho Yeon-jung
Yeongran
2010
272pp.

A woman unexpectedly loses her child and husband, one after the other, and is left alone in the world. A married man deeply hurts his wife and child by falling in love with another woman, and is subsequently abandoned by his family. Both people start treating themselves like garbage and stop living—the woman because of crippling loneliness, the man because of intense self-loathing. By chance, the woman makes her way to the port city of Mokpo despite her daily struggles through despair and regret. While adjusting to life there, she comes to realize that people everywhere experience the same love and hurt, and joy and loneliness. This woman who had lost the will to live gradually begins to find meaning in life. She gets a new name and starts a new family. The man stops by Mokpo for a friend's funeral, and soon relocates to the same coastal town to write a novel, thus ending two years of living in a basement dive. The man was drawn to Mokpo after his brief encounter with the aforementioned widow who was in attendance at his friend's funeral. While living in Mokpo, the man is exposed to the various woeful stories of the locals and gradually comes to forgive himself. The novel ends just before the man and the woman meet each other again.

Gong Sun-Ok's Yeongran is a story about the fragility of people and how they can hurt each other. The novel illustrates the truth that people in relationships can at times be clear perpetrators as well as victims. Furthermore, Yeongran reminds us that wounds created by human relationships must eventually be healed within the same context. Therefore, the various sad stories told by Mokpo locals in Yeongran can be thought of as the actual tales of the everyman.