Author approves comic version of his epic novel

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Author approves comic version of his epic novel

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The author of the epic novel “Taebaek Mountains,” Jo Jung-rae, 63, says he lives in a “writing prison cell.” He starts writing as soon as he gets up at 6 a.m. and continues until 11:30 p.m. In his own words, he “eats, writes, sleeps, eats, writes and sleeps.” When he does have any spare time, he picks up a comic book and reads it ― but it’s the comic version of his best-known work.
The comics artist Park San-hwa, 39, whose “Real Man” comic books have sold more than 2 million copies, began publishing a work based on the “Taebaek Mountains” in 2004. Recently, he finally finished the last of the 10 volumes almost 20 years to the day that the first volume of the novel was first published back in the 1980s.
Mr. Park’s face had the shy and proud look of someone trying to show off his newborn baby to his father as he walked into a traditional-style cafe near Seoul Arts Center. Mr. Jo congratulated him. “You did a good job,” he said.
“I tried to make the comic books suitable for children based on the extensive contents of the original work,” Mr. Park said. “I didn’t know how they would turn out.” Mr. Jo gently picked up the comic books, like a grandfather holding his grandson. The fictional “Taebaek Mountains” depicts the turbulent history between the Yeosu Uprising in October 1948 and the end of the Korean War in July 1953. The book caused widespread repercussions and controversy because it dealt with the lives of socialists ― not exactly a welcome topic given the virulent anti-communist sentiment in Korea in the 1980s.
Since the books depict a painful episode in history, Mr. Park tried to tone down some of the more shocking scenes of the original as much as possible. “I thought over how to make children understand the scene of a female character being tortured and ending up aborting her baby,” Mr. Park said. What’s more sensitive was the ideological disposition. “I didn’t want criticism that the comics were tilted toward the left and so I tried to elaborate on ideological differences,” Mr. Park said.
“I do not have any sympathy for socialism,” Mr. Jo said. “The comic books reflect the purpose of my fiction that all ideologies are, in the end, supposed to help people lead a humane life.”


by Jung Hyung-mo
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