We Are Not Alone: Wonder Boy by Kim Yeonsu

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.16 Summer 2012
  • byCho Yeon-jung
Wonder Boy

Wonder Boy by Kim Yeonsu is a coming-of-age story about a lonely boy. Jeong-hun is a 15-year old who lives with his father but becomes an orphan after his father is killed in an auto accident. The novel begins with Jeong-hun regaining consciousness a week after the accident. Losing his father, his sole kin, also signifies that the boy’s only connection to the world has been severed. However he also gains a special ability to read other people’s minds. Colonel Kwon, who assumes the role of Jeong-hun’s father, wants to take advantage of the boy’s special skill in order to ferret out North Korean spies or to read the minds of those being tortured in the interrogation room. But Jeong-hun finally manages to escape him. While reading personal notes his birth father left behind, and getting a hold of letters his mother who defected to North Korea had written to his father, the orphaned Jeong-hun finds out in the end that “we are all connected to each other,” which helps him mature.

This novel can be read as the story of a boy who loses his father and searches for his mother; but throughout the novel, the author also tells the tragedies of Korean society in the 1970s and 1980s. As he does in many of his other novels, Kim deftly interweaves personal sorrow with socio-political hardship in the author’s typically humorous and lyrical writing style. Kim seems to attribute the past tragedies in Korean society to the inability of people to empathize with the pain of others, as exemplified with his story about the loneliness and sorrow of the “wonder boy.” If it is the domain of literature to make readers witness the individual psyche intersect with historical events, then Kim Yeonsu’s novels, especially Wonder Boy, are exemplary.  

Author's Profile

Kim Yeonsu is a novelist. Kim debuted in 1993 by publishing a poem in Writer’s World. He published the novels Walking While Pointing to the MaskGoodbye Mr. Yi Sang, Route 7The Night Is Singing, and Wonderboy and the short story collections I Am a Ghost WriterTwenty, and World's End Girlfriend. Kim has received a number of literary awards, including the Daesan Literary Award and Yi Sang Literary Award.