Controversial series to be released as book“Homo Executans” is the next novel by Yi Mun-yeol to be released, which the author wrote during a writer’s residency in the United States. It is a stark criticism of the “386 generation,” Koreans now in their 30s and 40s who were involved in the nation’s democratic movement with progressive ideals of political reformation.
“There are three kinds of idiots who could not be saved,” Yi writes. “They are officials within the National Intelligence Office whose job is to arrest North Korean spies, national security prosecutors and senior police officials who resigned after torturing North Korean spies. They are idiots who do foolish things in the name of doing the country good or of people fawning upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a country that killed and abused its citizens, for challenging the Dear Leader.”
Yi, 57, an author noted for the openly political conservatism in his novels, is releasing a series, first published in a local quarterly literary magazine, as a book early next year.
The story is about a character called Sin Seong-min, a former democratic activist who is part of the 386 generation.
In the novel, Yi depicts a boiler mechanic who lives in a rundown greenhouse as a squatter as a symbol of Jesus Christ and the activist group that assassinates him as a symbol of the anti-Christ. Later, the supporters of the boiler mechanic “abolish” the organized activists.
The book’s Latin title means human as executor, and has drawn controversy since the first edition of the series. Yi is openly critical of the current government and describes them in his story as “idiots who seized youth and a generation that is foolish enough to only reveal its identity when hidden behind a computer screen, using the anonymity of Internet spaces.”
Such criticisms, however, have become much bolder and more descriptive in his latest novel.
In passages criticizing the appointment of government officials he writes, “Someone who has a profile in the democratic movement is more likely to rise to a high-ranking position than a person who passed a bar exam.” In another section, he describes modern Korea as “a world in which movements among the civic groups act as the most efficient tool while bureaucratic positions are full of Red Guards who are blinded by their position.”
There is also a Korean term that translates as “Five Scorns” (ocheonsa), referring to five categories of Korean officials ― ministers, conglomerate owners, national assemblymen, generals and high-ranking officials ― whom poet Kim Ji-ha heavily criticized in his famous poem “Five Thieves.” The poem was published under the military government and Kim was subsequently arrested and sentenced to prison for years.
In Yi’s novel, the “Five Scorns” meet the three idiots, to hold an urgent discussion on state affairs, perhaps the author’s view of current politics.
Yi describes in his book a “pro-government media workers who shamelessly bark for the new government, thinking it’s their progressive ideals.” In other passages, he questions the Sunshine Policy, asking, “Would the Kim Jong-il administration freely give up its ‘late father’s style of handling government’ to participate in the nation’s reformation knowing that the South’s Sunshine Policy is targeted at stripping their clothes after all?”
By phone earlier this month, however, Yi said, “I only wrote a novel,” adding that he “only wrote about a certain stream of uneasiness that pervades our society, not my view.”
Some critics asked, “Isn’t it true that the author is starting a new phase of political activity with a political novel even though he says that he has fled to America because he is disgusted by Korean politics?”
Yi adamantly responds, “At the moment I have no relations with the current political authorities. I took precautions that this book will not be interpreted with an overtly political emphasis.”
Last December, Yi left Korea for a writer’s residence in Berkeley. Originally he planned to stay there for a year, but recently decided to extend his stay for another year. Before leaving home, he said, “I became too involved with politics without intention. I am going to the United States to restore my literary spirit.”
by Sohn Min-ho