About halfway through reading this biographical graphic novel, it struck me just how little I knew about the history of the Republic of Korea. I'm not a fan of not knowing things. This led me on a dive into at least a surface reading on South Korea’s political and cultural history, fascinating and sometimes turbulent. Imagine living in a country where the leader of the nation wages a war on intellectual thought, educational inquiry, and popular culture; where citizens are beaten and gassed by the police for protesting peacefully; where corrupt politicians are only arrested and imprisoned after civil unrest. This is what Kim Hyun Sook lived through.
Her story and the story of her family and university friends runs the emotional range of tense, sweet, funny, and dramatic. Sometimes I was rolling my eyes at her overbearing mother, sometimes I was saying “Awwwwwww!” at the awkward romances in the circle of school friends, sometimes my jaw was tense at the scenes of dissident students being, um, interrogated by the police (thankfully not too graphic). And without giving any specific spoilers, rest assured that the story has a happy ending. Well, mostly happy.
This makes a good companion read to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and John Lewis’ March.