The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Navigating uncertainty, vulnerability and resilience of young individuals

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : June 24, 2023 - 16:00

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"Young Geunhee's Parade" by Lee Seo-su (EunHaengNaMu Publishing)

"Young Geunhee's Parade"

By Lee Seo-su

EunHaengNaMu Publishing

The cast of characters introduced in Lee Seo-su’s collection of short stories comprises vulnerable and anxious young individuals who embody the sense of uncertainty and fragility hanging over today's younger generation.

The award-winning short story “Mi-jo’s Era" centers on Soo-young, an assistant writer working on adult webtoons. Struggling under immense stress, she develops alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss, but cannot bring herself to quit. She confides in Mi-jo, “It’s this era. This era is crushing my spirit. People spend more money on bad webtoons than good ones, and it's causing me to lose my hair." Meanwhile, Mi-jo endeavors to use her father's life savings of 50 million won ($38,600) to buy a house for her mother and herself.

The title piece, which won the 2023 Young Writer Award, follows Moon-hee’s narrative on understanding and embracing her younger sister, Geun-hee, who quits her job and becomes a YouTuber. She starts with “meokbang” and “sulbang,” in which streamers showcase themselves eating and drinking, respectively, then goes into discussing books. When Moon-hee scolds her for wearing revealing clothes, Geun-hee retorts, "I believe my body is beautiful. It's unfair to persecute our bodies," leaving Moon-hee stunned.

Though the characters may appear foolish, they are not helpless individuals that crumble under the weight of reality. Rather, they are keenly aware of their limitations and face hardships head-on, rejecting the sympathetic gazes of those around them. While the subject matter and stories could easily take a tragic turn, Lee's narrative style, infused with humor and humanism, has an optimistic energy.