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Litro 169: South Korea, finding the soul in Seoul
Finding the soul in Seoul is Litro’s newest body of captivating stories from the peninsula, showcasing writing by Korean authors, including those from diaspora communities who write in languages other than Korean.
Finding the soul in Seoul is Litro’s newest body of captivating stories from the Korean peninsula, showcasing writing by Korean authors, including those from diaspora communities who write in languages other than Korean. As in so many countries, the canon of modern Korean literature has long been dominated by men. However, Korea’s extraordinary flourishing of contemporary writing has been led by women, who frequently dominate domestic prize lists and have had the biggest success abroad. So in edition we give a platform to these women whose stories cement the female experience in the fullest sense of the term – aware that there are no issues, political, societal, artistic or philosophical, that are not also women’s issues – we aim to show how Korean women are ‘grabbing back’ the canon and writing themselves into literary history. .
Our cover artist is Zena Holloway, Photographer, Zena Holloway, works almost exclusively underwater the technical aspects of working in water combined with superb creative direction increases the striking imagery she captures. In this edition Zena’s series titled Sea Women accompanies “Sea Mothers”, by Janet Hong, a beautiful poetic dive into the lives of the haenyeo, or Korean sea-women divers.
The issue opens with South Korean author and translator Bae Suah, whose writing departs from the tradition of mainstream literature; she has created her own literary world based on a unique style and a knack for psychological description. She gives us here a surreal tale of a writer and a dog, “While a Tibetan Dog Howled”.
Anton Hur’s essay “How to Write Queer Korean Lit: A Manual” does what its title promises.
We have five poems by the classic early-twentieth-century avant-garde Korean writer Yi Sang.
And we present an extract from Mary Lynn Bracht’s novel White Chrysanthemum (Chatto & Windus), in which the heartbreaking history of Korea and of its “comfort women” is brought to life in a moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.
There’s art by Kyung Eun You, “Where Are We Now”, a series of linoleum print cuts in comic-strip format, dealing with the loss of the artist’s mother and her father’s depression and alcoholism, in an immigrant family in the United States.
Edward Howell’s essay “South Korea is what North Korea is not” explores the differences between those two nations. Moving into sf territory, “Are You Gonna Keep This Up?”, by Park Min-gyu, looks at a brief almost-friendship on a doomed earth, while a flash fiction by Kangmyoung Chang, “Highly Personal Superpowers”, offers a not-so-heroic take on the superhero genre.
“Unidentified Flying Objects”, by Samantha Kim Rogers, explores a Korean American girl’s relationship with her ill father and his work.
“The Little Hedgehog”, by LP Lee, offers a fable of North–South relations in the Korean peninsula. “Sea Mothers”, by Janet Hong, accompanied by beautiful underwater photography by Zena Holloway, is a poetic dive into the lives of the haenyeo, or Korean sea-women divers.
And for online extras, go to litro.co.uk to find two longer stories: Yun Ko-eun’s “Sweet Escape”, a Kafkaesque piece about an obsessive battle with bedbugs, and Choi Jae-hoon’s “An Untold Case of Sherlock Holmes”, in which the great detective investigates the murder of a certain famous writer…