The generation in their twenties is the most overlooked generation in Korea in the 21st century. Not long ago, they were featured as central characters in television dramas and movies. Marketers also focused on their influence as trendsetters. Many of them, however, are now trapped in a cycle of youth unemployment. They are widely called the “880,000-won” generation, an expression that refers to their extremely low monthly wages.

The unfortunate generation does not have a place called a “home.” They are squeezed into a much smaller and restrictive space provided by a mere “room.” Kim Ae-ran persistently investigates the 20-year-olds’ cramped one-room accommodations such as a gosiwon, or study room, and basement rental rooms. Kim’s second collection of stories, Mouthwatering, has a sophisticated writing style that brings to life the Korean youth who find it extremely difficult to secure a single room. Kim, however, does not portray the dark and small rooms as depressing or suffocating; she pulls off a feat by describing the rooms as if they are a huge cosmos where space expands almost infinitely. She also casts a magical spell on her characters by extending a fleeting moment into their entire lives.

Kim, also in her 20s, is widely recognized as a leading writer because of her cross-generational appeal. Young Korean writers tend to indulge in strange and grotesque stories or in an obscure background where time and space do not matter much. But Kim always starts from an ordinary episode and then leads readers to the often ignored truths of life by focusing on the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Instead of highlighting the ordinary anecdotes of so-called important people, Kim continues to discover great stories out of ordinary people, demonstrating her rare and insightful storytelling talent.