Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Your Republic is Calling You: Young-Ha Kim


The story takes place over the course of one day in the life of Ki-Yong, a South Korean with a wife and teenage daughter. Except that he is really a North Korean spy who has been in Seoul, working as a film importer, over 20 years, and has now been recalled to North Korea. About 10 years into his assignment in South Korea, the man who had run his intelligence group was purged; after that they had heard nothing from anyone in North Korea. For 10 years he has led a normal life but now it has been upended in one email; although Ki-Yong immediately begins following plans for his exit from South Korea, he is fearful and uncertain about his future.

The reader also follows Ki-Yong's wife and daughter throughout the day, and those parts of the story are told from their point of view. The daughter is in high school, doing well in school and with lots of friends, but with typical teen-age angst. His wife is alienated from her husband and unhappy with her life, although we don't understand why until later in the story.

My Thoughts:

  • The book is spy fiction, but it is more than that. It is also the picture of a family dealing with problems, and focuses most on how they are affected by the events. We get to know much more about each member of the family as the day unfolds.
  • One minor disappointment was that the book is mostly set in South Korea. There are flashbacks to the protagonist's youth in North Korea and they are interesting, as are his reflections on the differences in life in South Korea and North Korea.
  • I was immersed in the story, and it whetted my appetite for more reading about North and South Korea.


Publisher: Mariner Books, 2010 (orig. pub. 2006)
Length:     236 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Setting:     South Korea, North Korea
Genre:      Espionage fiction
Source:    On my shelves since 2012
Translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim


pattinase (abbott) said...

It sounds good. I will look for it.

Lark said...

This sounds really good! I like that Korean setting...whether North or South.

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds absolutely fascinating, Tracy! I don't read enough set in the Koreas, and it sounds as though this has some real insight. On my 'check this out further' list!

Sam said...

This really sounds good. I can't imagine being in that situation and going through the emotions that man must be feeling after having lived a normal life in a prosperous country for a whole decade. Returning to North Korea would have been a near impossible thing to do without the fear and intimidation factors. Love the cover, too.

Clothes In Books said...

That's a great setup, and it sounds like a fascinating read. Like you, I think I should read more books set in Korea (either part!)
We need more time for reading to keep up with everything!

TracyK said...

Patti, It is a fascinating novel and I think the suspense is balanced with the picture of the family's life.

TracyK said...

Lark, I agree. I have one novel set in North Korea; after that I will have to investigate what else is available.

TracyK said...

Margot, I did remember another series set in South Korea in the 1970s, Martin Limon's Sergeants Sueño and Bascom series. I have read two books in that series and I should return to it.

TracyK said...

Sam, it was a great read. Not much like an espionage book at all but still leaving the reader wondering what is going on, what's next?

TracyK said...

Moira, finding enough time to read all I want to read is a big problem. And I read slower now. I have not been buying new book purchases since the beginning of the year (except for ebooks, which I don't read much of anyway) and trying to get through the books on my shelves.