The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] The power to save just one person: Blessing or curse?

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Oct. 14, 2023 - 20:01

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"Only One Person" by Choi Jin-Young (Hankyoreh Publishing)

"Only One Person" (a literal translation of the Korean title)

By Choi Jin-Young

Hankyoreh Publishing

This year’s winner of the prestigious Yi Sang Literary Award, Choi Jin-young, returns with a full-length novel after two years.

The story revolves around the tallest and the longest-living tree on Earth that can save only one person in danger of dying by borrowing just one leaf from the tree.

The protagonist, 16-year-old Mok-hwa, is destined to become a “lifespan mediator” and communicates with the tree to rescue one person from a tragic, life-threatening situation. Mok-hwa witnesses moments in her dreams that are as vivid as reality. She sees scenes of suicides, murders, accidents, natural deaths, and hears a voice saying: "If you save one, the one will live." The tree's mysterious summons continue, and among the many deaths, only one person can be saved.

This legacy has been passed down through generations.

Mok-hwa's mother has been saving people since she was 15. Nevertheless, the few lives she could rescue paled in comparison to the overwhelming tide of death. Overwhelmed by feelings of defeat and helplessness, her mother saw her power as a curse.

After a period of doubt and rebellion, Mok-hwa gradually finds her footing as a lifespan mediator.

When she accidentally comes across a survivor she prevented from suicide who recognizes Mok-hwa, she decides to look for the people she saved.

Incorporating some fantasy elements, the story delves deeply into the issues of life and death, the divine and human, approaching them in a highly realistic manner.