Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Appointment with My Brother, by Yi Mun-Yol

The famed South Korean writer imagines meeting his North Korean brother after the death of his father--a defector to the North in the narrator's youth (a fact that parallels the author's life). The narrator, a professor of history who has suffered as a result of his father's defection, joins a tour group to Yenji, a chinese border town from which groups are allowed to see the famed Mt. Baektu and other North Korean sights. In this town, he meets his brother while at the same time encountering members of his group, who have their own agenda, political and economic. The narrative encompasses much discussion of unification along with many poignant episodes of cultural misunderstandings between the two brothers, who have an undeniable bond of brotherhood, despite years of resentment toward one another. Included in this story is an interesting explanation of the genealogical traditions of family namings, provided with a clarity and thoroughness I haven't seen before. Written in 1994, the novella is a snapshot of the politics of unification (prior to the Sunshine Policy) at that time.


Bybee said...

I read this and really enjoyed it. The only thing that seemed to strike a false note is that he has to explain to his brother about family names. The brother is Korean, too. Wouldn't he know that?

Book Oblate said...

Hi there, thanks for your comment. Yes, I noticed that too, and thought that because his brother was North Korean, it's likely that the history and reasoning behind the classic naming tradition wasn't taught to him.