Thursday, September 19, 2013

Suil Kang Shares Short Stories in Anthology of Korean Village Life!

Pagoda Park
"March First Movement: A nationwide mass protest that began on March 1, 1919, against the Japanese colonization of Korea. It began with a recital of the Declaration of Independence for Korea in Pagoda Park in Seoul and last several months. The Japanese responded with severe reprisals and killings: their accounts report that 553 Koreans were killed and that 12,000 Koreans were arrested. Korean sources report that 7,500 Koreans were killed and that 45,000 were arrested..."

"Korean Independence Day: Korea became independent on August 15, 1945, following Japan's surrender to the Allies in World War II.

"Korean War: The war between North and South Koreas. It started on the early morning of June 25, 1950. One source estimates that 1.5 million people were killed, while 3.6 million people were injured.

"April 19th Revolution: A nationwide protest that followed the elections held on March 15, 1960 and reached its peak on April 19, 1960, when the police and military killed hundreds and injured thousands of civilians. It ended the reign of South Korea's first president, Rhee Seungman. He was airlifted to Hawaii on April 29, 1960; his henchman Prime Minister Yi Kiboong was killed by his own son.

Park Junghee
"May 16th Coup D'etat: A coup led by Colonel Park Junghee in 1961. It overthrew the civilian government that rose after the April Nineteenth Revolution and began the reign of President Park.

President Park was in office during the time period covered in this book...

A Collection of 
Korean Short Stories
By Suil Kang

Author Suil Kang included the above events at the end of her anthology... I thought that was very significant, because, as it is all over the world, it is the people in the country, the small villages, towns, and even cities that are, at the same time, most and least affected by war... During her stories she might mention the President as it relates to the effects to daily life. Because, of course, that is also usual--decisions are made, regardless of how they affect the people... The stories Suil Kang shares is about the country in which she lived prior to her adoption--near Seoul, Korea. They are not all happy stories but they resonate with the honesty, the guilt, the pain...and the love that each individual experiences, trying to live, to possibly succeed, and to look toward a future life...

Kyonghee was a leader among her friends, "not only because she was the oldest, the tallest, and the strongest, but also because she was fair and had a generous mind." Her father had left her mother and three sisters to be with a new wife. She did not like her father, who acted as if he loved her, but had, after all, left them. 

I laughed when, one day, the children had gone for a walk up in the woods and heard music, saw women in traditional dresses, their hair in tight buns... Kyonghee explained she'd heard her aunties talking about it. President Park and his men came often! Although the vid included is for a recent talent show, I could not resist showing the potential "geisha" playing for us!

There are nine fairly long stories, plus an appendix with Korean Words, names, events and practices as included in the stories. Most are easily read, even with some Korean words, which will add greatly to the reading pleasure of Korean-Americans.

The most outrageous story for me was "Mr. Song's House." With my facilities management background, I cringed on Mr. Song's behalf! You see, he decided to build a "western" house, with all the assumed advantages we Americans have--which, of course, most do not have...LOL Ayoung, a young girl that is in several of the stories, had watched...and dreamed as the house was built

He built and completed his home, only to have it demolished...He built a second one, less grand...It was demolished...Finally, the last one was allowed to stand...

"Ayoung could have kept on watching Mr. Song and his family,
except for the uneasy feeling she had, which told her she was
intruding. It was rude to keep on watching them, which or
not all was done in full view of any passersby. Ayoung
pretended that she had a forgotten errand and picked up her
pace towards the next hill. She would climb the ridge to the
point of the soldiers guarding the Blue House
  [the President's Home]. She would then
return home, making a large circuit...
During this story, Ayoung also garnered my attention when she was walking one day--she did not want to disturb Mr. Song... During her walk, she enjoyed the beauty of her country, including the sky...

"High up in the blue expanse, cotton clouds drew fantastic pictures: birds with beaks miles long... scanning the sky to see Jesus and God the Father as Minister Jang had told her long ago...Could she see the fact of her father? Would he be up there? Ayoung searched. She remember. Only Christians, only Christians would be high up in heaven...
"However gentle he had been, he would not be up there. Only Christians said the minister. That was not fair, was it? What about her grandparents? If her father had chosen to disbelieve--for he had surely heard of Jesus--how about her grandparents, who may have not heard of Him? Was it
fair to burn them forever and ever?...Would a just God burn them in an everlasting fire? Minister Jang must have meant to add something else. Where was he? Would he have told her what happened to someone like her great,
great grandparents once he had returned home? Closing her eyes, Ayoung prayed and resume the walk..."

My thought? How cruel and insensitive we Christians can be!

Readers will come to know the culture, the customs of those who lived much simpler lives in Korea, before western wealth apparently was envied, by some, and decisions by government officials and those with money made decision that affected so many others through the country!

One other story that caught my attention is about Miran and Minkyu, a young boy and girl who became friends in high school. They had fallen in love. He came from a rich family, she a poor family. When his mother put an envelope of money down on a table and left, she was stunned--"Miran had believed in fairy tales!"

Miran kept the money, it would be used for Chul to attend school, just as all extra money was used to support his education...

But by the time Chul entered school, away from his mother and Miran who had always put him first, he decided he could not do it--"I did not wish to go on pretending the the professors were teaching me something and that I was learning something. I did not have it in me to figure things out on my own either... He had joined with other student activists...

I wondered, as I closed the book, whether Chul had been one of those killed during a revolution, coup, or war... As with all of life, we come full circle to the death from those killing, seeking something more...

Park Geun-hye
The editor, Adolfo Caso, of Branden Books, might have been the one who wrote on the back cover, that "Suil writes about her old country, showing a keen perception and with human understanding of her native country and its people." Indeed! Also on the back is a short blurb for each of the short stories Kang has shared. I noticed something from these stories, although I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that the women of this country are very strong. Their first priority is family and nothing else matters, especially in the support of the men in the family. Perhaps with the first female President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, there will be an opportunity to use that familial strength for the good of the country and a more liberal role for the women, who learned so much from living in the small villages, dreaming of a time when they might have the chance to succeed...

I enjoyed spending time in Korea with Suil Kang, learning, and thank Suil Kang for sharing the stories that wonderfully speak of her beautiful homeland... Highly recommended...


About the Author: Born in Seoul, Korea, Suil Kang was adopted by an American father and sent to Bossier City, Lousiana in 1977 to start her high school years. She graduated from Valdosta High School in Georgia. Having studied electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she worked as an integrated circuit designer. She then studied law at New York University and worked as a patent attorney.

She now lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and a daughter, a few blocks from her mother and sister. In this first book, Suit writes about her old country, showing a keen perception and with human understanding of her native country and its people.

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