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A Distant and Beautiful Place
256pp. October 2002
A Distant and Beautiful Place
Author: Kwija, Yang; Translator: Kim, So-young; Pickering, Julie;
Somewhere on the periphery of Seoul, between the modern metropolis and the traditional farming communities, lies a "distant and beautiful place," the neighborhood of Wonmi-dong. Here, a young couple from the city struggles to make a home for themselves; a hapless "salary man" is forced into door-to-door sales after losing his job; a precocious seven-year-old questions the meaning of friendship and community. Everyone seems to be chasing the intangible dream of a better life. Set against the backdrop of South Korea's breakneck drive for industrialization and economic development in the 1980s, these compassionate and often humorous stories capture the essence of modern South Korean life-including the ubiquitous atmosphere of violence and fear that clouded the country prior to democratization in 1987. They also depict the Korean people's unfailing optimism and love of life.

A Distant and Beautiful Place first appeared as a series of linked stories in literary journals between 1985 and 1987. It was published as the collection Wonmi-dong saramdul in 1987 and quickly became a best seller. Yang Kwija, one of South Korea's most respected and popular authors, has since published dozens of novels and shorter pieces.

"Yang captures the essence of modern Korea in transition." --World Literature Today, December 2003

"These stories ... capture the circumstances and personalities of individuals caught up in the urban experience in Seoul and its surrounding 'satellite cities'.... The author's vivid imagery brings these people to live, and at the end of the book, one cannot stop thinking about [them]." --Korean Quarterly, Spring 2003

"A Distant and Beautiful Place marks Yang Kwi-ja clearly as an author of great talent. Deft descriptive touches, a knack for well-chosen images, and an abiding concern with narrative structure are matched by insightful exploration of issues of real social importance." --Acta Koreana, July 2003

Author: Kwija, Yang; Translator: Kim, So-young; Pickering, Julie;
Kim So-young is a freelance translator living in Seoul. She translates for Newsweek Korea and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service attached to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Julie Pickering is a translator and editor living in Seattle. Her literary translations include The Prophet and Other Stories, a collection of novellas and short stories by Yi Ch'ongjun, and Hwang Sunwon's The Descendants of Cain, translated with Suh Ji-moon.
Read an excerpt (PDF).


A Distant and Beautiful Place

The Spark

The Last Land

The Wonmi-dong Poet

A Vagabond Mouse

On Rainy Days I Have to Go to Karibong-dong


The Tearoom Woman

Our Daily Bread

The Underground Man

Cold Water Pass