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Book Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun (translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell)

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
The cover of the book The Law of Lines.

Summary:
Two young women’s lives are told in parallel beginning with a moment of intense misfortune. Se-oh, who normally avoids leaving the home she shares with her father at all, comes home from an outing he encouraged her to go on to pick up a coat he bought for her birthday to find their home up in flames with her father inside. The detective tells her that her father set off the explosion himself due to debt, setting wheels turning in Se-oh’s life. Ki-jeong, a high school teacher, has a situation with a difficult student come to a head at the same time as she finds out that her younger half-sister’s body was found in a river. How will these two women’s lies come to entwine?

Review:
When I heard about this, it was in the context of it being a thriller. I’m not sure I’d personally call it a thriller, more of a quiet, subtle, literary mystery.

I was deeply moved by Se-oh’s story. Although I did not previously know how debt works in South Korea, once I understood I felt so much empathy for the horribly tight spot Se-oh and her father found themselves in. The more of Se-oh’s story was revealed, the more saddened I was for her. It was like if you saw the aftermath of a car crash and then watched a slow-motion replay of how it came to be. That’s what reading Se-oh’s story was like. It was through Se-oh’s story that I learned the most things that were new to me about South Korean culture, and her story was also what led to me looking up some aspects of it and learning even more.

I was less engaged by Ki-jeong’s story. While I did feel empathy for her being stuck in a job she didn’t like and the apparently difficult situation with her half-sister, I didn’t feel that enough was revealed about her that was positive for me to really be on her side. I suspect I may have gotten more out of Ki-jeong’s story if I was more familiar with South Korean culture, but this is a shortcoming of my own and not the book.

If you are looking to travel to South Korea via subtle yet engaging mystery, I would recommend picking this one up.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Movie Review: The Host (2006) South Korea Gwoemul

November 9, 2010 2 comments

Tail holding a girl in a river.Summary:
In the city of Seoul a haughty American military officer makes a Korean worker pour formaldehyde down the drain, which empties into the River Han.  Shortly a creature mutates and turns into a beast that comes up out of the river and terrorizes the peaceful people living and working beside the river.  The government cracks down on everyone who came into contact with the beast, claiming that the mutation is contagious.  Meanwhile, the beast captures a little girl, and her whole family escapes quarantine and goes in pursuit of her.

Review:
I’ve developed a fondness for foreign movies, but this one was epically confusing.  In fact, I live tweeted it, and my tweets were mostly ones of confusion.  I’m really not sure how this movie crossed over abroad the way it did.  Think of the worst American horror movie you’ve seen in the last couple of years and think about someone bothering to translate it into Korean.  That’s what watching this was like.

First, there’s the main issue of formaldehyde turning only one creature in the whole River Han into a beast.  That doesn’t make any sense at all.  Period.  Then there’s the beast itself.  Although the cgi is very good, how it just doesn’t look particularly frightening.  It can run around on land, swim, and hang by its tail off the bridges.  It frankly looks a lot like a giant fetus running around.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

Then there were just a bunch of odd, confusing moments.  Maybe it was a cultural thing?  Maybe the translation was bad?  I’m really not sure.  For instance, when the beast first appears, someone calls out that it’s a dolphin and gets all excited.  I’m sorry; it looks nothing like a dolphin at any point in time.  Wtf?  Then there’s the main family.  For the longest time, I thought that the little girl and her father were actually brother and sister with a slightly incestuous relationship.  They look practically the same age!  He gives her beer because she’s “in middle school now.”  In fact, the whole family’s relationships with one another were completely baffling.  Then there’s one of the weapons used against the beast that was some sort of inflated thing hanging down from a beam or something, and it, swear to god, just looked like a giant, yellow penis.  Wtf?  There were just too many wtf moments to get into the movie.

The one good thing I can say about the movie is that it reveals quite clearly the anti-American feelings in South Korea.  I’m sure it would be interesting as a cultural study for that alone.  I guess it was also entertaining, ableit in a wtf way.  Given that, I’d recommend it to people with an interest in Korean culture or an enjoyment of bad horror movies.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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