In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews227 The Good People: Korean Stories by Oh Yong-su. Marshall R. PIhL, trans., Singapore: Heinemann Publishers Asia Ltd., 1985. Pp.139. $10.95. "There is Seoul, and there is the rest of Korea." These words, which I heard in 1978 shortly after arriving in Korea for the first time, hold true even today as Korea continues its rapid modernization. And it is "the rest of Korea" — the rural farming and seafaring villages with their traditional patterns of work, play, and family — that forms the landscape of Oh Yong-su's fiction. The Good People is an engaging collection of Oh's stories, capably translated and attractively illustrated — a welcome addition to the small corpus of modern Korean fiction in English translation. Unfortunately, the book has been neglected by its publisher to the extent that the interested reader must now special-order it (read "pay in advance") from the bookstore. Herein lies a lesson for the translator of Korean literature: know your publisher's marketing capabilities and its marketing strategy for your book. Oh Yong-su (O Yöngsu, 1914-79) is one of the second generation of twentieth-century Korean writers — those who by and large received their higher education in Japan and became active forces in the Korean literary world after Liberation. Like Hwang Sunwön and Kim Tongni — two other representatives of that generation — Oh is well known for his portraits of country people. Not quite as versatile, powerful, or imaginative as those two giants of modern Korean fiction, Oh nevertheless offers much that is worthwhile in his stories. The title of the volume reflects Oh's abiding faith in the decency of people and his admittedly lyrical approach to writing. "Mine is an extremely pure and simple affirmation of humanity," he once wrote. "If I lost my faith in humanity I could no longer write." The stories in this volume were published for the most part between 1949 and 1965. Oh's concern with the timeless values of human existence was somewhat atypical of the Korean fiction of this period, when writers such as Yi Pömsön, O Sangwön, and especially Son Ch'angsöp portrayed a society ravaged by political violence and civil war, by hunger and homelessness — a society virtually bereft of moral signposts. Most of the stories in The Good People involve a search for security and permanence. In "Uncle" ("Atchiya"), set during the Korean War, a sentry befriends a young boy whose neighborhood 228Journal of Korean Studies playground has been taken over by the army. In "Migratory Birds" ("Hujo"), a shoeshine boy leaves his stepmother and his brutish father and attaches himself to a schoolteacher. "Seaside Village" ("Kaenmaül") tells of a young widow who remarries and moves inland, only to be drawn back to her seaside home when her new husband is drafted during the war. And the central figure of "The Girl from an Island" ("Sömesö on shingmo"), who has journeyed to the capital to work as a maid, returns to her home on a south-coast island when she sees her long-lost lover in a dream. As if to underscore the nature of the times, a relationship is cut short in each of these stories — albeit somewhat arbitrarily in the case of "Uncle." Even so, we are left with the impression that the juncture, though temporary, has helped make the participants resilient enough to survive a very uncertain period of their country's history. But we should not conclude that Oh is merely a naïve optimist. Indeed, his works contain their share of unsavory moments. In "The Woman from Hwasan" ("Hwasan taegi"), one of the best stories in the collection, a young man who has married and left home rebuffs his ignorant mother's attempts to keep him in the family web. Illness robs the protagonist of "A Death at the Mill" ("Öttön chugüm") of his parents, and abuse by his brother and sister-in-law helps turn him into a miser. A father's insistence on an arranged marriage promises to end a budding romance in "Nami and the Taffyman" ("Namiwa yötchangsu"). "Wine" ("Sul"; would "Booze" have been a...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 227-229
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.