Times Literary Supplement: Book Review of books by Bandi, J.M. Lee, Mun-yol Yi, and Jieun Baek

Fictions of North Korea


In December 1950 my grandmother sent my father, who was then sixteen, from the northern Korean port city of Wonsan to Busan in the south, to keep him safe from the communist army. He never saw his mother, brothers and sisters again. If my uncles, aunts and cousins have survived, I wonder to what extent they resemble my grandmother, whose peaceful face I have stared at countless times in the worn photograph my father has carried with him since their final meeting. Today, less than seventy years since the formation of the two Korean republics in 1948, most inhabitants of the peninsula cannot even remember living as one nation, and to South Koreans the North has become a mystery.

Three works of fiction by Korean writers now available in translation address the significant question of life in North Korea. The Accusation by Bandi, a collection of seven stories depicting…

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