As interest in manga peaks, other Asian forms of comics are beginning to surface in North America. Now we can add manhwa, or Korean comics. Seyeong's work is meditative, naturalistic and frequently moving. This is a lengthy book comprising a baker's dozen of stories that range from corporate drudgery in South Korea to pastoral farm life, from ancestral keepsakes to gentle parables about ethics. In one rather remarkable tale, the protagonist describes a mysterious leather pouch carried everywhere by his grandfather. The pouch signifies the lives he left behind, first when Korea was split in two and then, as life continued, when his friends and, eventually, his wife died. The pouch comes to symbolize both the passing of life and of Korea's century. Seyeong renders all of these stories in carefully composed frames, each panel a precise emotional or physical moment. His drawings are nearly sculptural, and his figures move with both grace and drama. What's really impressive, though, is this book's gentle nature. The author's voice-clear, humane, and patient-always comes through, making these comics both a thoughtful glimpse into a foreign and little-discussed culture and a pleasure to read. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The story from which this volume draws its title, Buja's Picture Diary, is a young girl's account of life with her hard-working but poor mother in an unsympathetic society. Likewise the other twelve stories by this Korean "manwha" (comic book) author relate poignant tales of distressed humanity struggling with family, history, and culture. In Tear Gas, political history overshadows Mr. Park's life as the 1980 Kwangu Uprising draws a line from his father to his son. Observe takes a rare playful tone in the wordless tale of a self-absorbed man on a train. In well-defined black-and-white panels, O generates remarkable empathy and insight while maintaining a sense of objectivity through his choices of realism versus cartoonishness or voice versus narration. The closest readers get to a character's inner thoughts are through Buja's diary, comparing events as they happened with her own childish words and illustrations. He often makes use of foreshadowing and parallelism, as in Fire when the image of mating pigs is recalled by the witnessed infidelity of the narrator's mother. Although O's eye is not unsympathetic, the world he depicts is unforgiving, sometimes graphically so. Most stories do not have clear endings or objectives-or time periods-but serve as thought pieces or keen observations of human life, and require consideration to be fully appreciated. Originally published in 1995, this book is a thoughtful examination of the human condition in the Korea of the recent past as well as universally. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S A/YA G (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed bookrecommended for Young Adults; Graphic Novel Format). 2005, ComicsLit/NBM, 280p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to Adult.