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Living on the Edge: The Night is Singing by Kim Yeonsu


Twenty-first century Korean readers are probably unfamiliar with 1930s Eastern Manchuria. Since Eastern Manchuria has been far from the minds of contemporary Koreans, both in time and distance, not many authors have shown interest in using it as a background for their work. Kim Yeon-su infused life into Eastern Manchuria by using it as a literary stage to narrate, in particular, the tragic lives of young people who were neglected, forgotten, and hidden on the edge. Though the setting is situated under particular historic conditions, it is precisely because of these conditions that we are able to contemplate the universal, fundamental themes of identity and violence. In the beginning of the 1930s, Japan founded the puppet state of Manchukuo in Eastern Manchuria, and the people of Joseon (Korea) living there were marginalized. The Japanese considered them to be either communist guerrillas or independence activists, while the Chinese thought them to be spies for Japan. Of course, such chaos created conflict among the Joseon people, even within the sense of their individual identities. For the young people of Joseon, the background in which objectivism had collapsed created a dark world where they could not trust even themselves.



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