Written in the 1930s, “Scenes from Ch’ǒnggye Stream” is a collage of the daily lives of ordinary people who live along Ch’onggy Stream, which courses through the centre of Seoul, Korea.
The novel is divided into fifty chapters of differing lengths. It has neither a protagonist nor a plot but instead is a naturalistic description of the intertwined lives of almost fifty characters. The streamside milieu plays an important role, affording the readers a window into the social conditions and the stark realities the various characters face during this period.
Pak sets his modernist vignettes of urban life during the 1930’s when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. In spite of the hardships Koreans suffered, it was also the time when Korea was changing from a traditional society to a modern one, with the introduction of a new world order and goods from the West via Japan. Social structure also changed and evolved at this time.
At its heart, “Ch’ǒnggye Stream” is an engaging, informative, and often humorous observations and commentaries on the social conditions of the citizens who lived along the stream during the 1930s.