Reality Bites: Goodbye, My Everything by Jeong Yi Hyun

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.22 Winter 2013
  • byKim Yonghee
Goodbye, My Everything

This book tells the story of a girl growing up in the 1990s when capitalism was at a new height in Korea. It is set in the middle of Gangnam, which is seeing a surge of capital, sex, authority, and desire. Sampoong Department Store collapses as explosively as the growth of capitalism. A teenage girl and boy experience pagers, CD players, self-study after school, Chungking Express and video rooms, studying abroad, and family conflicts over real estate. The author reports the growth of the 1990s generation amid the reality and culture of capitalism.

Sae-mi is a female high school student who lives with her grandmother in Hannam-dong. Her grandmother uses her wealth to help Sae-mi’s aunt marry a prosecutor. Sae-mi is left in the care of her grandmother after her father's second marriage. The story ends with her grandmother’s sudden death. Sae-mi’s father and aunt, who have been eyeing the family property, sell the house after reporting their mother as missing.

Keeping everything a secret, Sae-mi says goodbye to her days as a teenager. Realizing that everyone is alone in the end, she slowly becomes an adult.

The death of Sae-mi’s grandmother symbolizes the collapse of Korea’s capitalism. Sae-mi and her friends go their separate ways as adults. This book is a cheery yet dismal portrait of the third generation growing up under capitalism who had to share abundance, desire, and hypocrisy in their teens. 

Author's Profile

Jeong Yi Hyun has authored four novels, four short story collections, and three essay collections. Her first novel, Sweet City of Mine (2006) was adapted into the TV series My Sweet Seoul. Her novel Foundation of Love: A Couple’s Story (2013) was part of a two-volume series exploring issues of love, marriage, and family, with Alain de Botton writing the second part.