The Evolution of Faction: The Investigator (2 Vols.) by Lee Jung-myung

  • onOctober 26, 2014
  • Vol.18 Winter 2012
  • byJung Yeo-ul
The Investigator

Lee Jung-myung, famous for The Painter of the Wind and The Deep Rooted Tree, is the last word in Korean “faction,” or fiction based on fact. Nearly all of his works make the bestseller list within days of publication, and are adapted for television or film. The translation rights for Lee’s The Investigator, his latest opus, were sold overseas even before it came out in Korea.

The Investigator is based on Yun Dong-ju, Korea’s most well-loved poet. Set in 1944, when the end of Japanese colonialism was drawing near, the story begins when a Japanese prison guard is found dead in a corridor of the infamous Fukuoka POW camp. The protagonist, another prison guard at Fukuoka who helps his mother at her used books store and dreams of becoming a writer, is assigned this murder case. One of the murder suspects is a young prisoner from Joseon: No. 645, Yun Dong-ju.

The case starts out as a simple murder case, but the more the prison guard investigates, the more he learns of the shocking secrets of Fukuoka, such as the massive breakout the prisoners are plotting, and the inhumane Japanese militarists who plan to turn the prisoners into scapegoats.

To some extent, The Investigator reads like the Korean Shawshank Redemption. Just as Andy frees his fellow inmates from the prison that hold their souls captive, Yun Dong-ju teaches his inmates a different kind of freedom, one that cannot be taken away from them. Yun does not succeed in escaping as Andy does, but his beautiful poems live on in the hearts of Koreans everywhere who wish to free themselves from the suffocating shackles of fate. Yun may have died in incarceration, but his poems are immortal and free. The Investigator thus captivates readers with its bold imagination and engaging narrative, and resurrects Yun Dong-ju as a new revolutionary of the 21st century. 

Author's Profile

Lee Jung-myung is a writer of historical factions. His novels include The Painter of WindThe Deep-rooted Tree, and The Investigator.