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Land of Tears

Translated by:
Publisher: , 2018
Link to online store *

Land of Tears is an anthology of short stories about the Korean experience of poverty and mental and physical anguish. Most of the stories have to do directly or indirectly with the Korean War. The stories depict the lives of a wide range of characters, such as a North Korean People’s Army soldier, a South Korean Communist Party Partisan member, the wife of a Partisan, an ordinary South Korean person in the midst of hardship during the Korean War, a North Korean refugee, and the anguish of a South Korean intellectual.

The common thread running through all these characters is the author’s portrayal of the inextinguishable humanity in each one of them. In no sense are these people monstrous or less than human, even in the severest of human circumstances. In fact, the author shows how the most extreme hardship that each of the characters encounters draws out the most exalted nature of being human.

In these stories, Park poses the following two central questions: What does it mean to be human? How can one discover the basic nature of a person? The author believes that there are two good ways in which these two questions can be elucidated. One is to place people in an extreme situation and observe how they behave. Park examines his thesis by asking: How do people act when they have seized political power? How do they respond when they have come face to face with death? How does a person behave when he is about to die of starvation? What consequences do wars and revolutions bring about? The author endeavors to better understand those fundamental questions of human existence by way of the human actions in the most extreme circumstances, in each of the stories.


Park Sangseek received a B.A. in English from Seoul National University, a B.A. in political science from Amherst College, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He taught in the U.S. for ten years before he returned to South Korea in 1979. He worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Institute of Foreign Affairs as Dean of Research and Chancellor for ten years. He also served as Consul General, Ambassador to UNESCO and to Singapore. He retired from the Foreign Ministry in 2000. After retirement, he served as Rector of the Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University.


Inyoung Choi is a translator and artist who studied comparative literature and fine arts in the USA. She has translated many works of Korean literature for over twenty-five years.

Table of Contents

Translator’s Note

1. Song of Devotion
2. The Valley of the Shadow of Death
3. The Journal of a North Korean Soldier
4. A Wife of a Partisan
5. Life
6. Death in the Cathedral
7. The Blazing Thorn
8. Mermaid
9. The Wings of Icarus
10. Thicker Than Blood
11. The Shack
12. Debt
13. The Medal
14. The Legend of Lake Rotorua
15. The Forest Protection Act, the Old Woman and Special News
16. Law of Cause and Effect
17. The Pillar
18. The Evader
19. The Seven Shadows
20. A Dream of the Gray Zone
21. The Pigeon and the Coin

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