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.