Love for Sale: I Like Lao-Lao by Gu Kyung-mi

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.9 Autumn 2010
  • byJang Sungkyu
I Like Lao-lao

Gu Kyung-mi is known for her particular interest in the portrayal of “losers.” Her main literary focus seems to be those who were discarded in the harsh Korean capitalist restructuring since 2000. This is noteworthy in that, unlike other young writers, her work is not characterized by new, experimental techniques.

Gu Kyung-mi’s I Like Lao-Lao is a love story of one such “loser” born of Korean capitalism–an immigrant woman. The novel is about Amei, a Lao woman who marries a Korean man for his money and for escape from everyday life, and the events that led to it. Such pre-arranged, commercial marriages between Koreans and women from nearby developing countries have been commonplace since the 1990s. This book explores the question, “Is love possible for immigrant women?” Amei meets someone from a Korean company in Laos, and winds up marrying his brother-in-law. But the decision is all but forced on her in light of her difficult financial situation. Unsatisfied with her marriage, she escapes and returns to family in the end.

When it comes to immigrant women in Korea, perhaps it is not easy to discuss the possibility of love. If love is a voluntary union between two equal parties, what immigrant women often end up with is a union without will or equality. Gu Kyung-mi’s I Like Lao-Lao paints an unembellished picture of the gruesome reality that forces the rules of commerce on love. Unlike some works that idealize or exoticize immigrant women, this book is an accomplishment in its objective view of immigrant women and love.