Translated by: Minsoo Kang
Publisher: Penguin, 2016.
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The Story of Hong Gildong is arguably the single most important work of classic Korean fiction. Like its English counterpart, Robin Hood, it has been adapted into countless movies, television shows, novels and comics. Its memorable lines are known to virtually every Korean by heart. Until now, this incredible 19th century fable has been all but inaccessible to English readers.
Hong Gildong, the brilliant but illegitimate son of a government minister, cannot advance in society due to his secondary status, so he leaves home to become the leader of a band of outlaws who rob the rich to give to the poor. On the way to building his own empire and gaining acceptance from his family, Hong Gildong vanquishes assassins, battles monsters, and conquers kingdoms. Minsoo Kang’s expressive and animated new translation finally makes the original text of this classic available in English, re-introducing a noble and righteous outlaw and sharing a beloved hallmark of Korean culture.
The original authorship of this tale is in doubt. If the tale between these covers is, at core, the work of a 19th century commoner with an eye to making a quick buck from penning a bestseller, he knew his market. This is an immensely fun read and very instructive into the bargain. Minsoo Kang's long introduction is fascinating, and he expands on his arguments in Invincible and Righteous Outlaw
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