The Story of Hong Gildong

The Story of Hong Gildong is an old Korean folktale which I’m not familiar with. Although I’ve heard the title before, I’ve never heard a Korean tell me the story or recommend it as any part of Korean literature. I would surmise that most Koreans know the story as a children’s book or as a comic book edition.

However, the story has recently been released under the Penguins Classic banner. That has my attention, because we shall now find it amongst the classic editions of Charles Dickens and Jane Austin. Of all the “Great Books“, which is a foundation of Western cultural literature, The Story of Hong Gildong is now included.

I look forward to seeing it at Kyobo Bookstore and getting my first glimpse of it. I hope that the story is worthy of its Penguin release, and that there might be more Korean literature down the road.

Review – A Kim Jong-Il Production

“Don’t!” she pleads. He doesn’t listen, so Maria, her eyes full of tears, shoots him. Overcome with grief, she drops the weapon and dives into the sea behind him, embracing his corpse and slowly drifting away.”

Back in May, I heard a story by This American Life about people sleeping in the same bed and having separate dreams. In this segment, struggling movie director, Shin Sang-Ok, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-Hee, whose kidnapping was archetypal villainy from a James Bond film, were living together in North Korea. Shin and Choi were brought to North Korea to film movies for Kim Jong-Il, the movie aficionado with the largest movie collection in the world.

book - kimjongilproduction

I was captivated by A Kim Jong-Il Production as a novel. I was able to finish reading it in less than a week’s time. The book is more than just another novel about North Korea and Kim Jong-Il.
Firstly, the beginning refreshes the reader on the recent history of Korea. North and South Korea were once the same country enduring the same perils of imperialist Japan in the early 21st century. After WWII, and the defeat of Japan, Korea was fractured by the ideologies of the Soviet Union and the United States. From here, the book takes a look at how both countries developed through the eyes of the kidnapped South Koreans.

Secondly, the book profile’s Kim Jong-Il’s rise to become the Dear Leader of North Korea. What’s most interesting about his story, as the title suggests, is that he becomes the “director”. Much like a film director, who has complete control over the actors, scripts, and movie scenes, Kim has puppeteered his way to gain favor from his father and become the successor of North Korea. All of this began while he was young and had full access to the inner workings of the North Korean Party.

In May 1964, Jong-Il graduated from college, and his career in the leadership ranks of the Party, the career that had always been expected of him, began. His first post was as a member of the secretarial staff of the Central Committee, under Uncle Yong-Ju, who took him under his wing and taught him everything he knew about the Party’s inner workings – how personnel was hired, promoted, and demoted; how every department worked and how it reported back to the Leader.

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