“It’s a great honor for me to be compared to ‘Pachinko’ by Lee Min-jin (54). However, if ‘Pachinko’ is a survival novel for families, ‘Beast of a Little Land’ is a struggle novel for the country.”
The novel “Beast of a Little Land” by Korean-American author Kim Joo-hea was published in Korea on Wednesday. At the video conference held on the day to celebrate her publication, Kim expressed her affection for her work while thanking for being likened to writer Lee Min-jin.
The two works have a lot of similarities. "Beast of a Little Land," which deals with the independence movement and the people's lives during the Japanese colonial period, was published in the United States last December and was selected as the "Book of the Month" by Amazon Books. It was also a finalist for the "Dayton Literary Peace Prize," given to literary works promoting peace. "Pachinko," whose set is also the Japanese colonial period, published in the United States in 2017, was also a long-time New York Times (NYT) and Amazon Books bestseller and was a finalist for the "National Book Awards."
"Beast of a Little Land" is about Ok-hee, a woman born as the daughter of a peasant farmer during the Japanese colonial period and became a gisaeng (courtesan). She navigates through the twists and turns of modern history by being entangled with Ye-dan, who runs a gisaeng house in Gyeongseong, Myeongbo, who formed the independence army, and Ito, a Japanese soldier.
“Since I was little, I have heard many stories of my maternal grandfather who helped Baekbeom Kim Gu’s independence movement. My parents were always proud of my maternal grandfather,” Kim said. “Thanks to that, I also grew up reading Korean history books and novels. I think that’s the biggest driving force for me to write a novel set in Korea.”
Born in Incheon in 1987, Kim immigrated to Portland, Oregon at nine. After graduating from Princeton University with a degree in art history, she worked for a publishing company, which she said was difficult due to racism and sexism. Eventually, when one of her bosses told her, “You are a servant,” she quit her company and devoted herself to writing novels. She had no money saved, so she bought beans and oatmeal that cost 99 cents to survive,” writer Kim said. "But I don't regret it."
“It took me six years to complete the novel. I've experienced a lot of discrimination in America, but I've always been proud of my (a female of Korean descent) identity. I believe such pride has helped me write Korean historical novels,” Kim added. “My next project will be about a ballerina set in Russia and France. The last time I was in Korea was 20 years ago (in 2002), and I want to go and see the National Ballet performance soon.”