Stepping Out of Society’s Shadows: One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jung-eun

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.10 Winter 2010
  • byJang Sungkyu
One Hundred Shadows

Hwang Jung-eun’s aesthetic achievements stand unique in Korean literature. Her work so far has used fantasy and allegory to reconstruct the voice of social minorities. Her unique aesthetic in portraying her deep interest in social issues stands out among the major achievements of Korean literature in the 21st century.

Hwang’s One Hundred Shadows also stems from this particular kind of sensitivity. The subject is the social issue of an old electronics market being torn down for redevelopment. Hwang does not stop at giving a general commentary on the injustice of eviction or the rights of the tenants. What she focuses on are the shadows of these social minorities. These shadows reinforce social violence and threaten to swallow their owners in the end. In short, the shadows are a symbol of all injustice in society.

Could any member of society, however, claim to be free of shadows? Everybody has shadows. As long as injustice exists, all of us are minorities of a sort. Nobody can remain untouched by the problems of society. Hwang Jung-eun presents this argument in flawless prose and through the devices of fantasy, all in all creating a striking aesthetic. One Hundred Shadows is remarkable in that it goes beyond the old device of mimesis and pulls off an aesthetic that successfully reconstructs the voices of social minorities. Hwang’s work is an exciting example of the new possibilities opening in Korean literature in the 21st century. 

Author's Profile

Hwang Jungeun debuted in 2005 with “Mother,” which won the Kyunghyang Shinmun New Writer’s Award. She has authored the novels One Hundred Shadows, Savage Alice, and I’ll Go On, the short story collections Into the World of Passi, The Seven Thirty- Two Elephant Train, and Being Nobody. This year, she published the serial novel Didi’s Umbrella. Her books in translation include One Hundred Shadows (Tilted Axis, 2016), I’ll Go On (Tilted Axis, 2018), and “Kong’s Garden” (Strangers Press, 2019).