From Wonso Pond by Kang Kyong-ae
A Korean Novel

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“From Wonso Pond is an astonishing achievement of a young author whose life and work ended far too soon. Here, we have two girls and two boys, four hearts and two roads. From a colonized Korea, Kang sets the stage for the tragic birth of two rival nations. John Dos Passos and George Orwell may have had a Korean sister yet.”—Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food For Millionaires

“A vibrant account of the travails of Japanese colonialism as experienced by workers and women by the pioneering feminist writer of the Korean left. —Andre Schmid, author of Korea Between Empires

“How refreshing it is to have a good old-fashioned story, told without narrative tricks or artifice.  Kang Kyong-ae's From Wonso Pond is a powerful novel that charts the struggles of her impassioned characters as they learn to live, work, and love.  The questions Kang poses and the issues she tackles are as universal as they are enduring.  This essential work should be required reading for anyone interested in Korean history and literature.”—Sung J. Woo, author of Everything Asian: A Novel

“Anyone who wants to understand the terrible, wrenching conflicts that Koreans have endured and transcended in the past century could well begin with Kang Kyong-ae’s brilliant, poignant, masterful novel. Her penetrating eye and sensibility fall on individuals that conventional writers miss—the poor, the frail, the heterodox, the women. To have a voice like this restored and rendered into English with such deftness by Samuel Perry is truly a major achievement.” —Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago History Department Chairman and the author of The Origins of the Korean War

A classic revolutionary novel of the 1930s and the first complete work written by a woman before the Korean War to be published in English. From Wonso Pond transforms the love triangle between three protagonists into a revealing portrait of love and labor set against the backdrop of Japan's colonization of Korea.

In a plot rich with Dickensian overtones, this novel paints a vivid picture of life in what is now North Korea through the eyes of Sonbi; her childhood neighbor, Ch’otchae; and a restless law student, Sinch’ol, as they journey separately from a small, impoverished village ruled by the lecherous landlord to the port city of Inch’on.

But life is hardly easier there, as Sonbi wears herself out boiling silk threads twelve hours a day while Ch’otchae and Sinch’ol become overworked and underpaid dockworkers. All three become involved with underground activists, fighting oppression and colonial rule.

Kang Kyong-ae (1906-1944) was born in Japan-ruled Korea and spent much of her adult life writing from her home in neighboring Manchuria. She is the author of many short stories and the novel Mothers and Daughters, which was also serialized in Korean journals during the 1930s. Kang died at the age of thirty-nine.

Samuel Perry is an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Brown University.



About Kang Kyong-ae

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Kang Kyong-ae (1906-1944) lived and wrote in Japan-ruled Korea. Her fiction explores the experiences of working class Koreans under colonial capitalism. She is the author of the novel Mothers and Daughters, which like The City and the Country was serialized in various Korean journals during the 1930s. At the age of 39, Kang died of a long-standing illness. Samuel Perry is an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Brown University. He has completed several translations of Japanese and Korean literature from the colonial period including Chang Hyok-chu's "Hell of the Starving" and Yi Taejun's "Stone Bridge." He has received grants from the Fulbright Association, International Communication Foundation, Korean Literature Translation Institute, and Korea Foundation.
Published October 1, 2009 by The Feminist Press at CUNY. 297 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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