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A Distant and Beautiful Place

Yang Kwija; So-young Kim & Julie Pickering (trans.)

Publication Year: 2003

Somewhere on the periphery of Seoul, between the modern metropolis and the traditional farming communities, lies a "distant and beautiful place," the neighborhood of Wonmi-dong. Here, a young couple from the city struggles to make a home for themselves; a hapless "salary man" is forced into door-to-door sales after losing his job; a precocious seven-year-old questions the meaning of friendship and community. Everyone seems to be chasing the intangible dream of a better life. Set against the backdrop of South Korea's breakneck drive for industrialization and economic development in the 1980s, these compassionate and often humorous stories capture the essence of modern South Korean life-including the ubiquitous atmosphere of violence and fear that clouded the country prior to democratization in 1987. They also depict the Korean people's unfailing optimism and love of life. A Distant and Beautiful Place first appeared as a series of linked stories in literary journals between 1985 and 1987. It was published as the collection Wonmi-dong saramdul in 1987 and quickly became a best seller. Yang Kwija, one of South Korea's most respected and popular authors, has since published dozens of novels and shorter pieces.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

The translation of this book was made possible by a generous grant from the Korea Literature Translation Institute. The translators also thank the many colleagues and friends who have provided much-appreciated advice and support. Special thanks to Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton for their helpful suggestions, and to Kim Younguk...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-5

Since her literary debut in 1978, Yang Kwija (b. 1955) has garnered a critical and popular following enjoyed by few Korean authors. Yang grew up amid South Korea’s breakneck drive for industrialization and economic development. Not surprisingly, her writing explores the modern urban experience in a changing society: the opportunities and disappointments of the new economy and the social mobility...

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A Distant and Beautiful Place

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pp. 6-25

As they squeezed the wardrobe out the narrow door, a fragment the size of a coin chipped off the side. The same thing had happened when they moved in. Gasping under the weight of his end, Ûnhye’s father had no time to examine this new blemish. He could only imagine the inner layers of wood gleaming like ivory and the angry scab that would eclipse the older scars on...

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The Spark

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pp. 26-46

He had just lit a cigarette when he heard the blast of the signal and the churning of wheels from one of the cavities in the dark upper reaches of the station. “The train is now arriving. All passengers please step behind the safety line.” Damn, of all the rotten luck! He jammed his cigarette...

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The Last Land

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pp. 47-68

For nearly ten days the wind blew relentlessly. The spring cold snap had arrived. Pedestrians scowled at the plastic bags and candy wrappers that littered neighborhood streets. Garbagemen collected the rubbish and burned it in the vacant lot, producing black smoke that rode the wind...

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The Wonmi-dong Poet

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pp. 69-85

People probably think I’m just an ordinary six-year-old girl, but I’m far from ordinary. While you might say I was conceited if I claimed to know the ways of the world, I can, with some certainty, say I know what’s going on at home and how our neighbors’ minds work. You see, I’m really seven, maybe even eight. It seems my parents put off registering my birth because I was such a frail thing and they...

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A Vagabond Mouse

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pp. 86-105

Summer nights in Wonmi-dong usually started around nine. That’s when the low bamboo platform was placed somewhere between the Wonmi Wallpaper Shop and the Happiness Photo Studio, and the game of go began. The platform, which spent the daylight hours moving back and forth in search of shade, was the latest of many projects belonging to...

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On Rainy Days I Have to Go to Karibong-dong

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pp. 106-131

The two workmen stormed in just after eight in the morning. The project began with the tearing apart. Ûnhye’s father grimaced at the racket as he watched the men pound and smash. Pieces of tile and fragments of concrete flew through the air with each blow of the hammer, so he couldn’t stand there watching. The kitchen, right next to the bathroom,...

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Bellfinch

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pp. 132-150

At the entrance to the park was a shelter for lost children. It looked like a glass cylinder; its round roof was painted green, and large windows wrapped around its sides. She paused quite unintentionally and, with her daughter Ky

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The Tearoom Woman

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pp. 151-177

The taxi let them off in the middle of the plaza in front of the train station. As always at year’s end, there was barely room to move. Cars swung into the turnaround, oblivious to the crowds, and pedestrians precariously wove their way through the vehicles. The new department store to the left of the plaza meant even worse crowds. Before the store’s construction...

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Our Daily Bread

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pp. 178-195

For the people living in Wonmi-dong—no, to be precise, for the people of the fifth subprecinct of Wonmi-dong’s twentythird precinct—a particularly thorny problem arose this winter. Depending on your point of view, you might think it a trifling matter, easily overcome with a little common sense, but in any case, it was clearly a most unfortunate situation....

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The Underground Man

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pp. 196-219

He opened his eyes, but he didn’t look at his watch. Even without turning on the light and looking at the watch, he knew it read four o’clock. It was about five minutes fast. He had to wait five minutes for it to be exactly four. Of course there was no reason he should wait until four, but he held his breath and listened anyway. At the stroke of four, the bell at Sôg’wang Temple on the lower reaches of Wonmi Mountain...

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Cold Water Pass

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pp. 220-253

The woman’s voice flowing from the telephone was dreadfully thick and hoarse. At first it was difficult to tell whether the owner of the voice was a man or a woman. The moment I heard it I spread open the pages of my memory and began searching for its owner. I had received telephone calls from two husky-voiced women in the past. One was the editor of a corporate newsletter, the other, a publisher. While I had met neither, I had a preconception that both were active, no-...


E-ISBN-13: 9780824861230
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824821920

Publication Year: 2003

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Subject Headings

  • Yang, Kwi-ja, 1955- -- Translations into English.
  • Short Stories, Korean -- Translations into English.
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