In a survey conducted by LTI Korea on social media, “Literature that Allows You to Experience Korea” has been selected as the theme in Korean literature that readers desire to know the most. For those who want to learn more about attractions, food, and culture in Korea, KLWAVE has prepared its first series: “Seoul in K-Literature.” This series captures the past, present, and future of Seoul, and in this particular section, we introduce some Korean literary works that stage the past appearance of Seoul.
Park Taewon / A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist / Moonji Publishing Co. (Korea) / 2009
A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist shows how a day spent wandering around the streets of Seoul can teach you so much about a person’s life. Much like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway which tightly showcases the landscape of London in a single day, A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist richly presents the overall landscape of Seoul through a day of a person. The scenery of Seoul depicted by an observant novelist with meticulous attention is beautiful yet fascinating.
Park Wansuh / The Naked Tree / Segyesa (Korea) / 2012
The Naked Tree tells the story of a family living with a trauma from the Korean War. The mother of the protagonist leaves her home in the countryside and moves to Seoul with a single goal in mind: to successfully raise her children in Seoul. There, she ekes out a meager living for the family, but much against her wish, the protagonist and her brothers aren’t given the happiest lives. The protagonist finds hope in life, however, when she meets a painter who makes beautiful paintings despite the tragedies of the war. Na-mok, the original Korean title of The Naked Tree, means bare tree with no leaves and only branches remaining.
Kim Seongok / Seoul-1964-Winter / Moonji Publishing Co. (Korea) / 2019
“Seoul-1964-Winter” shows the landscape of Seoul during the early stage of industrialization. The coincidental encounter between three male characters in the story serves as an opportunity for them to share their feelings of anxiety and loneliness, but it fails to prevent the tragic incident that happens to one of them at the end. The novel carefully yet strategically maps the complex psychology of the people in Seoul during this particular period and the deepening anxiety and loneliness they experience as rapid industrialization continues.
Kim Aeran / Run, Daddy, Run / Changbi Publishers Inc. (Korea) / 2019
“I Go to the Convenience Store” featured in Run, Daddy, Run tells the story of young people living in Seoul who stop by convenience stores every day to buy various types of snacks and products. Seoul is known as the city with the highest number of 24-hour convenience stores in the world, and those who make daily visits to one of these stores located everywhere in the capital and the wealthiest city of South Korea may initially be given the relief that they are, indeed, the “Seoulites.” However, the novel poignantly yet realistically portrays that these people, in truth, maybe the ones leading some of the most unstable and loneliest lives.
Jeong Yihyeon / My Sweet Seoul / Moonji Publishing Co. (Korea) / 2006
My Sweet Seoul is about a young woman living in Seoul with hopes for love, marriage, friendship, and success, but who often faces disappointment and loneliness on the way, showing what the reality looks like. Likewise, everyone dreams of launching a successful career or having a romantic love story in their life. Much like a coming-of-age novel, however, My Sweet Seoul teaches readers through the protagonist’s journey that no one can ever be fully satisfied at work or in relationships, and that no matter how much one tries, there will always be things that remain unobtainable. The abundance of culture, consumerism, and materialism governing the city of Seoul is well depicted in this novel.
Written by Jeong Yeoul
The host of “Jeong Yeo-ul’s Library” on KBS Radio.
Currently active on channel “Salon de Muse” on Naver Premium Contents. The host of “Monthly Jeong Yeo-ul” on Naver Audio Clip.
The author of Literature O’clock, To Me Not Taking Care of Me, The Use of Travelling, The Right to Study, Top 10 Places I Loved in Europe, Things I Wish I Had Known Back Then, Vincent, My Vincent, The Road to Hesse, and An Introverted Traveller.
Jeong Yeo-ul’s book, One Short Psychology Class a Day has been translated into Vietnamese and Chinese; Even Your Scars are Beautiful into Indonesian; and The Courage to Finish a Story into Chinese.
Translated by Jenny Chang
Jenny Chang is a freelance translator currently based in Seoul. A Korean diaspora who was mostly raised in Canada, she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and completed her study at the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. While actively pursuing her career in the field of international education for five years, Jenny came to find value in languages and their pivotal role in promoting a cordial understanding between different cultures.
Introduced Original Works 원작
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