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Grand Prize Winner of the 3rd Changbi × KakaoPage Young Adult Novel Award
Unidentifiable beings emerge in an empty Seoul
A captivating SF disaster blockbuster for this summer
An intense science fiction blockbuster with a swirling narrative and unparalleled imagination is set to arrive this summer. Written by Kim Jeong, No Humans Land (Changbi Youth Literature 120), winner of the grand prize at the 3rd Changbi × KakaoPage Young Adult Novel Award, has been hailed for its “excellent ability to craft an intricate world based on near-future events.” The story follows the adventures of “Mia,” a teenage climate refugee, who is dispatched to a post-apocalyptic Korea as a member of an investigative team.
The narrative unfolds swiftly from the outset, immersing readers in a relentless cascade of mystery that grips until the final page, with its unexpected twist leaving a long impression. The characters’ struggles in the face of a global climate catastrophe evoke a chilling empathy, resonating with those of us living in an era of climate crisis. No Humans Land is an undeniable feat of magic, an evolution in YA novels, and a clarion call for Korean climate fiction.
In an uninhabited Seoul
An adventure beyond imagination unfolds
Seoul stands as a bustling city of nearly 10 million people. What if all its people were to suddenly vanish? No Humans Land introduces a distinct worldview never before witnessed, where Seoul transforms into a “land devoid of inhabitants.”
By 2044, the world is engulfed in a climate catastrophe. Major cities worldwide witness a relentless onslaught of heatwaves, heavy snowfall, droughts, cold snaps, earthquakes, and tsunamis, that lead to a drastic decline in food production and plunge the world into a severe famine. To make this worse, in 2050, another large-scale climate disaster strikes. Amidst these dire circumstances, the UN recognizes the gravity of the climate crisis, designating various regions across the globe as “no mans land.” The entire land of Korea has been designated as one, resulting in a complete exodus.
The tale unfolds in 2070, when the main character Mia steps into an abandoned Seoul, South Korea. Mia assumes the alias “Sieun” and joins the No Humans Land investigation team at the behest of a secretive request. Tasked with reporting any signs of suspicious events, Mia sets out with fellow team members: Parker, Hannah, Chris, Adrian to Seoul, where they set up a base camp in Yongsan Park. There, Mia takes in the desolation that shrouds Seoul. What she sees is foreign and daunting—Yongsan Park in ruins, the fractured Hangang Bridge, and deserted vehicles strewn across the streets. Amid this forlorn and eerie atmosphere, Mia and her companions are about to encounter formidable challenges.
Intense narrative, astonishing immersion, unforgettable twists
A new current in Korean climate fiction.
Accompanied by Hannah and Parker, Mia departs for Namsan to undertake ecological research. As the group departs from Yongsan Park and embarks on the Namsan hiking trail, the walkie-talkie starts to screech. They soon hear the urgent voice of Chris, stationed back at the base camp.
“This…this is Chris. Adrian’s gone.”
“What do you mean?” Parker snaps while taking a deep breath.
“He just…suddenly vanished.” (pg 25)
Upon learning a member has suddenly disappeared, Mia and her companions swiftly retrace their steps to the base camp, launching a search for Adrian. However, as Hannah and Mia scour the area, something strange appears before them: a newly built sandcastle. Mia’s thoughts race, grappling with the possibility that someone might be living here, a place she had believed to be devoid of life.
Then Hanna abruptly halts all movement. Her gaze is fixed somewhere and she is trembling. Following her line of gaze, Mia arrives at a sight that is both familiar and out of place. As Hanna’s and Mia’s eyes meet, they both share the same thought.
Someone else, other than us, is here. (pg 37)
Amidst the confusion caused by a group member’s disappearance, another shocking incident unfurls. This is how No Humans Land masterfully crafts an immersive experience, layering incidents one on top of the other, for profound impact. As per the remarks of the YA book judges, “Numerous foreshadowings keep you turning the pages,” No Humans Land is a captivating novel that draws you in, rendering the passage of time virtually unnoticed.
Meanwhile, the extensive climate disasters depicted in the novel prompt readers to contemplate the pressing issue of climate crisis. The global impact of extreme heatwaves, freezing cold spells, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires are no longer a distant future scenario. Recently, the concept of “climate inequality” has emerged as an important topic within the context of the climate crisis. The world within the novel, divided between the prosperous “Past City” and the destitute “Climate Refugee Camp,” exposes the matter of climate justice. No Humans Land stands as a pioneering work, leading the new wave of Korean climate fiction that has gained momentum in recent times.
What is the right path to save humanity and the Earth?
The startling question that shakes conventional notions of good and evil, destruction and salvation
No Humans Land has a unique appeal, unprecedented in conventional science fiction or YA novels. Though written in Korean, its multinational characters bring a fresh dynamic, and the fact that it’s set in Korea within a post-apocalyptic context infuses the narrative with a fresh atmosphere. Furthermore, the protagonist’s poised demeanor, punctuated by intermittent bold choices and independent problem-solving, leaves an indelible mark in the reader’s mind.
The “Young Adult Novel Award,” co-organized by Changbi and KakaoPage has consistently expanded the horizon of Korean YA novels by selecting winning works that achieve both popularity and artistic merit, including titles such as Snowball and Night Chased by Storm. The 3rd Grand Prize-winning work, No Humans Land, stands out with its “intense visualizing effect, reminiscent of watching a sci-fi adventure movie” (Lee Da-hye, novelist)—vividly and convincingly depicting the journey of teenage protagonist Mia, navigating through adversity in the midst of a climate disaster, and at the same time evoking deep emotions.
Particularly compelling is Mia’s trajectory after uncovering a shocking secret, where she questions whether manipulating and altering humans is truly justifiable even if it is for a better world. This process shakes our conventional notions of good and evil, resonating deeply within. The young protagonist, a climate crisis victim who confronts problems head-on while seeking new hope, sends a strong message to adults who opt to brush aside imminent climate issues, that it is indeed time to pay attention.