Lost Souls: Stories

By Hwang Sunwon
Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton
Columbia University Press, 2010

This collection of short stories depicts the struggle of everyman to survive in tumultuous mid–20th-century Korea. In “Bulls,” Pau is riddled with guilt after seeing men brutalized and imprisoned by a Japanese constable collecting grain tax. The darkly ironic “Booze” follows Chunho, a devoted steward of the Nakamura distillery in Pyongyang, as he fights to maintain control after property is redistributed following the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation in 1945. In the title story, Sogi witnesses his childhood love, Suni, sold as a concubine by her family. Sogi and Suni run away together only to discover that their love is true yet doomed. A distinction between North and South Korea in a contemporary sense is not obvious in Hwang’s stories, although the Korean War is the focal point of “Voices,” in which a disabled veteran returns home incapable of reintegrating into his rural society. Hwang beautifully depicts the lives of ordinary individuals, allowing a glimpse into a bygone era. (Publishers Weekly)

Hwang Sunwon (1915-2000) is one of modern Korea’s most influential writers.  He is the author of more than one hundred stories, seven novels, and two collections of poetry. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are translators of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction and have received several awards and fellowships for their translations.