Under the subconsciousness
The Other Side of Dark Remembrance
By Lee Kyun-young
(Jimoondang, 5,000 won)
Unlike many other novels written on the Korean War (1950-1953), author Lee Kyun-young’s “The Other Side of Dark Remembrance” does not hold ideological conflicts of the two Koreas at its front.
Instead, it follows the mundane life of an office worker with a low salary living in Seoul. The man had lost his parents during the war, and was sent to an orphanage with his younger sister, Hye-soo. Because they were housed in the orphanage at such a young age, the man did not know whether Hye-soo was his biological sister or not ― he just wished she was.
Though he wanted to live with Hye-soo as long as he could, she was later sent off to a family as a foster daughter. The man as a young boy begged the director of the orphanage not to send her away, but it was no use. After losing her, all he knew was her adoptive father was a dentist working in Imun-dong, Seoul.
The man was later adopted too, by a woman who had lost her biological son during the war. He soon forgot about Hye-soo and never thought about her for the next 20 years ― until one day he loses his important contract documents while drunk at a bar.
The man returns to the bar the next day and looks for the waitress who spent the night with him after drinking. He asks her if she saw any of the missing documents the night before. Though she does not have them, as he talks to her, he somehow is reminded of his past. The memory includes the war, the orphanage, and most importantly, his long-lost sister, Hye-soo.
After he unexpectedly comes face to face with the memory of Hye-soo, he briefly considers going to Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, where the orphanage was located. But he soon drops the idea and visits the waitress again.
From her, he faces another shocking truth, that he repeatedly shouted Hye-soo’s name while being drunk on the night he lost the documents. He thought he was only reminded of Hye-soo by talking to the waitress the next day. Yet Hye-soo, and his painful memories of her, have always existed in his subconsciousness.
The story successfully depicts a case of heartbreaking separation caused by the Korean War, without getting into the politics of the conflict.
Born in 1951, Lee Kyun-young studied history at Hanyang University. He worked as a professor at Dongduk Women’s University. “The Other Side of Dark Remembrance” won the Yi Sang Literary Award in 1984.