The Long Road
Translated by Stephen J. Epstein
2010, 120 pages
ISBN 978-1-937385-05-7 Paper $23.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-06-4 Cloth $45.00
The Long Road is a moving, elegiac short novel that examines the processes that caused idealistic young Koreans to depart for overseas during the 1990s in the wake of their experiences under Korea’s darker days of military dictatorship in the 1980s. The story centres on a trio of men: Han-Yeong, who although initially attracted to the freedom that Australia seems to promise, comes to feel increasingly ambivalent about his life there; his brother Han-Rim, a former minor singing star who fell afoul of the authorities in Korea for a song seen as critical of the government; and Myeong-U, who had been a student activist in Korea and develops psychological difficulties during his time in custody for protest.
Invited by Han-Rim to take a fishing trip on the boat that he now operates, the three set off for a day on the open sea in ominous weather. As a storm arises, the novel follows the thoughts of Han-Yeong, leading from flashback to ultimate epiphany, as he reflects on his relationship with Australia, his brother, Myeong-U’s troubled history and his anguished memories of Seo-Yeon, the woman he left behind in Korea. Winner of the 1995 Hanguk Ilbo Literary prize, The Long Road is the sole piece of Korean Literature in English that treats the Korean diaspora experience in Australia.
Kim In-Suk is one of the most prominent of Korea’s new wave of female writers born in the early sixties. Recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, she is also one of the few writers to deal extensively with the Korean expatriate experience.
Stephen J. Epstein is the Director of the Asian Studies Programme at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He has published widely on contemporary Korean society and literature and has also translated numerous works of Korean and Indonesian fiction.
"In-Suk Kim is one of the best of the new breed of socially- and politically-conscious writers to come out of Korea. She has an intense, internalized style of writing, with strong narrative skills. A short novel, The Long Road has many characteristics of a play, with the three main characters articulating their disappointments, disillusionments, anger and grief. Her characters are in turmoil, unable to reconnect or to reconcile. Life is not what they expected or hoped. Choices made are not free and clear; any decision made has consequences. The future is bleak . . .
"Kim writes in a particularly strong social and political voice. Her stories resonate with inner conflicts of the main characters, who carry with them the effects of modern Korea's upheavals—dictatorships, secret police and torture, and student uprisings. She describes cultural incompatabilities—be they social and class divisions, economic and political boundries, or gender differences . . . [Her writings] take aim at South Korea's modern social and political history for creating the country's exiles. Her stories offer no clear resolution, however, they explore how the devastation of a generation of Koreans through war and political strife has left its mark."