Discussing Pak Wan-suh on TBS eFM’s 1013 Main Street

1013 MainstreetIf you’re reading this early on Tuesday morning (Seoul Time) I’ll be on TBS eFM’s 1013 Main Street discussing Park Wan-suh (various spellings exist). So tune in!

If you’re here because you listened to the broadcast, below are some of the links I discussed.

A review of “Who Ate Up All the Shinga”
A review of Three Days in That Autumn
A review of Weathered Blossom

Partial list of publications

My Very Last Possession: And Other Stories
The Red Room: Stories of Trauma in Contemporary Korea
Sketch of the Fading Sun
Three Days in That Autumn
Weathered Blossom (Modern Korean Short Stories)
Who Ate Up All the Shinga?: An Autobiographical Novel

More about Pak (From the Wikipedia, which again, is fair, since I wrote the article^^)

Park Wan-suh (also Park Wan-seo, Park Wan-so, Park Wansuh, Park Kee-pah and Pak Wan-so, Pak Wanso) was born in 1931 in Gaepung-gun, Gyeonggi-do in what is now North Korea. Park entered Seoul National University, the most prestigious in Korea, but dropped out almost immediately after attending classes due to the outbreak of the Korean War and the death of her brother. During the war, Park was separated from her mother and elder brother by the North Korea army, which moved them to North Korea. She lived in the village of Achui, in Guri, outside Seoul until her death.

Park published her first work, The Naked Tree, in 1970, when she was 40. Her oeuvre quickly grew however and as of 2007 she had written fifteen novels, and 10 short story collections. Her work is “revered” in Koreaand she has won many Korean literary awards including, in 1981 the Yi Sang Literary Prize, in 1990 the Korean Literature award, and in 1994 the Dong-in Literary Award. Park’s work centers on families and biting critiques of the middle class. Perhaps the most vivid example of this is in her work The Dreaming Incubator in which a woman is forced to undergo a series of abortions until she can deliver a male child. Her best kown works in Korea include Bad Luck in the City, Swaying Afternoons, That Year the Winter was Warm, and Are you Still Dreaming?

Park’s translated novels include Who Ate up All the Shinga which sold some 1.5 million copies in Korean and was well-reviewed in English translation. Park is also published in The Red Room: Stories of Trauma in Contemporary Korea.

Park died on the morning of January 22, 2011, suffering from cancer.

Park’s early work focused on the traumas of war and its aftermath, but in the context of family stories that alternately tugged at the heartstrings and brought smiles of recognition. Her work allowed multiple levels of understanding of Korean history, literature, and culture. Her work was primarily semi-autobiographical pieces in which families’ and women’s lives were snarled in economic, social, and pyschological changes created by the war. Park’s work can be read on the simple plot level, for the complicated but essentially loving family stories or as most elegant and subtle introductions to pundhan munhak and all sorts of political, social and economic themes. Park’s stories, first and foremost, shine through and the reader can appreciate the “Koreaness” of the story as his or her knowledge allows. Park’s indirect political strategy means that readers who know Korean history and culture can understand the historical context of her works, while a newcomer to Korean history can feel the same ominous undertones, but understand them within the narrower context of the family situation. Perhaps her most famous work in English was Who Ate Up All the Shinga.

Finally, one weird way to assess her impact was that she was well known enough to earn a Google Doodle on Google Korea:


Yeah, she is. She’s well known enough that, last year, on her birthday, Google used an image of one of her books on its Google doodle.


October 20th, was the birthday of great Korean author Park Wan-suh, who passed away last year. The folks at Google are honoring her birthday by featuring her on the Google doodle on the Korean language and English language pages (The other languages are not doodled today and this only appears to show up for some IP addresses).

It features a young Park herself, holding the “singa” mentioned in the title of her best known (in English) work, Who Ate Up All the Singa? It looks like this:


Singa Doodle