This is nice on two levels…
Some time ago I predicted that a Korean author would eventually get recognition from a literary magazine in the US. My reasoning was that an article would come in, and editor would say, “hey, this is from Korea, have we done anything from Korea?” Then self-same editor would realize no one had ‘done’ anything about Korea. And a piece would be published. It seems to have happened (way back in 2008!) and it couldn’t have happened to a better writer than Kim Young-Ha whose work seems written to resonate with Western audiences.
In this case the work is for Esquire’s “Napkin Project,” in which they publish super-short works by noted authors.
Kim delivers the goods, like an assassin with an ice-pick. The piece is “Honor Killing” and the title itself is a clever comment on the story, which centers on Korea’s obsession with beauty and the roles to which women are relegated by this obsession as well as Korea’s continuing glass-ceiling for women (a topic discussed by James Turnbull here and here in the “politics and economics” section). Kim visits acne on a beautiful receptionist, with results that the west might not expect. The story ends with the sentence, “her skin was so luminous that everyone’s eyes squeezed shut,” which is both ironic and brilliant (you’ll have to read it yourself to see why, as I don’t want to ruin it).