Skip to content

September 2003

Writing From North Korea

Image: Jeremy Hunter, Pistols," Pyongyang, August 2011, Digital photograph, 40 inches x 30 inches ©Jeremy Hunter / Telefoto

When we first began our search for literature from North Korea, we assumed we would tap into an underground stream of "dissident" work comparable to the rich "samizdat" literature circulating behind the Iron Curtain not so many years ago. But either writers in North Korea believe in their political system so fervently they must pay homage to it whenever they write -- or they are carefully watched to ensure a propagandistic mission for their work. Still, in the hands of translators Ha-yun Jung and Stephen Epstein, these works by Han Ung-Bin, Kim Byung-hun, and Kim Hong-ik give a fascinating glimpse into a foreign culture and frame of mind -- and at times, as in the excerpted passages from Han's Hopes for Good Fortune, a dip in a refreshing stream of lyricism and natural beauty that might yet persist in mountain places far from politics and power.

Encountering North Korean Fiction: The Origins of the Future

The new year is dawning. The thought that we are entering the last year of the current century arouses a different feeling within me than usual. My heart is overwhelmed with emotion and my

from Friends on the Road

This story, written in 1960, is narrated by a middle-aged party committee chairman in the countryside who encounters a young woman on the train, on his way back from an important regional

from He’s Alive

In this 1995 story, Bun-nyo is an elderly superintendent at a reservoir in the countryside. She devotes much of her time and effort to taking care of a flourishing flower garden that she has

How the Other Half Lives

After spending seven years in the U.S., I recently moved back to Seoul, the capitalist capital in the southern half of my divided country. When I arrived, both sides were preparing for the

Second Encounter

This is a story about something that took place over ten years ago, during the 13th World Youth Festival. It is now Juche Year 88 (1999).1 Outside our window slogans on the street, visible

from Hopes for Good Fortune

The narrator, a manager at a factory in the city, is sent on an urgent business trip to his wife's hometown. As the hapless narrator sets out on his journey, his wife pressures him to

Book Reviews

Recent Issues

There Is No Map: The New Italian(s)

Turning Points: Women Writers from Taiwan

Brazil Beyond Rio

The Queer Issue VII

On Cuban Time: New Writing from the Island

Women Write War

Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices

International Graphic Novels: Volume X

Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.