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Seoul Searching

November 2005

Economic powerhouse, wounded nation, Buddhist wilderness sanctuary, and this year’s guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, South Korea is as various, as traditional and as modern in its literature as in its landscape.

The distinctive stylist Kim Hoon contributes “To the Longbills at Mangyeong River,” a lovely slice of wildlife, while Oh Jung-hee portrays a young girl and her fatherless family seeking all sorts of shelter in a rural village during the Korean war in “Garden of My Childhood.” On the urban side of the street, Lee Gi-ho’s muscular “Earnie” spotlights a young prostitute who finds stardom as a rapper, and Hwang Sok-yong’s “Camel’s Eye” follows a young officer’s dark night of the soul on the street as he returns to Korea from Vietnam. Perennial Nobel nominee Ko Un is joined by fellow poets Kim Hye-soon, Lee Seong-Bok and Hwang Ji-woo. We thank our guest editor, Ha-yun Jung, for assembling this notable selection.

And in memory of novelist Ba Jin, 1906-2005, one of China’s most revered writers, Words Without Borders presents again his story “When the Snow Melted.”