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Posted May 2, 2013
Ki-yong is a North Korean spy who's been living as a sleeper in
Ki-yong is a North Korean spy who's been living as a sleeper in Seoul for the past 21 years. After 10 years of no contact he's suddenly given the order to liquidate everything and return to the North in the next 24 hours. But this is not a spy novel. If you're looking for a thriller packed with action and international intrigue look elsewhere. In fact, the spy angle is more a metaphor than anything else; we are all spies, all double agents, in one way or another. This is a novel about life and change, and the way it all seems to just sneak up on us. Ki-yong has grown comfortable in his assumed life in the South; his handlers have forgotten about him, he has a wife and daughter who don't know his secret, he enjoys his work, and has settled into a mundane existence. What was once an assumed persona is now the real man; what was once the real man in now a fading memory. But now the order to return has come down he has a decision to make, and ideals to reexamine. Does he still believe in the Socialist Paradise, does the revolutionary desire still burn in him, does he stay or does he go "home"? Meanwhile his wife, Ma-ri, struggles with her own moral decisions. Bored with her humdrum life, distanced from her secretive husband, she has taken a young lover who pushes her to do things she's not sure she's willing to do. And their daughter, Hyun-mi, has her own story to tell. On the surface her struggles seem like typical shallow teenage stuff, but they serve to highlight the theme of choice, and how our choices, big and small, affect us in ways we could never guess. The blurb on the front compares Kim Young-ha to Haruki Murakami, which is something I generally dislike seeing. Not because I dislike Murakami, but because it seems that every East Asian writer is automatically compared to him. However, in this instance I think the comparison is apt. Don't expect any fantastical elements, Kim is firmly ground in reality, but his tone and prose style are reminiscent of Murakami, and he deals with similar themes of isolation, anonymity, and division. Your Republic Is Calling You is a great novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for modern Korean lit.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.