Dream of the Amazon Workers: A by Ha Seong-nan

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.10 Winter 2010
  • byKang Gyesook

Based on the mass suicide of members of the “Odaeyang” cult in 1987, this novel begins with the protagonist, a survivor of a similar event, returning to the cement factory where the incident occurred. The filth and the dank smells of the factory hint at its mythical origins of primeval energy. Now it is only the site of a mysterious and horrifying incident, but the protagonist’s memories of the workers at the factory reveal that it was far more than that.

The factory was built as a community of hope, dreams, and solidarity by women, marginalized by society, who had experienced the violence of patriarchy first- hand. The community is described as being full of laughter, love, and independence, built by women who had broken away from the patriarchal status quo, who were in effect, modern-day Amazons.

An even more pervasive violence was at work, however, underpinning the very existence of the community. The world of the Amazons turns out to be a house of cards built upon the sacrifice of its members to richer, more powerful men, a community so weak it was destroyed when even that failed. The unresisting deaths of its members were the work of the powerful men reigning above them. This is why the protagonist continues to fear the cold, clammy hands that pressed down around her throat. The suspense throughout the novel pinpoints how the weak can only keep their simple happiness by compromising with injustice, which in turn makes them all the more vulnerable, revealing the amount of brutality and corruption that still persists in society today. 

Author's Profile

Ha Seong-nan has published five short story collections, four novels, and two essay collections. Her short story collection The Woman Next Door is forthcoming from Open Letter Books. She has won the Dongin Literary Award, the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, the Isu Literary Award, the Hyundae Literary Award, and the Hwang Sun-won Literary Award.