• Book
  • English(English)




    Title: Armbands

    Author: Heunggil Yun

    Genre: Korean Literatur, Contemporary Drama, Contemporary Fiction


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7741)


  • About the book

    Jongsool, a small-town thug, is hired as the manager of a private reservoir by a local businessman, who puts him in charge of collecting fees from anglers while keeping away poachers. The gig pays peanuts, but what hooks him is the armband he gets to wear on the job. (Armbands have a special meaning in Korean history as a symbol of illegitimate and abused power. Korean stooges for the Japanese colonial government in the first half of the 21st century and communist sympathizers during the Korean war in the 1950s wore armbands to vaunt their power while running roughshod over fellow nationals.) For a low-life like Jongsool, wearing an armband on the job means being able to wield the kind of power he never had before. With the armband on his arm, Jongsool struts around the reservoir, lording it over anglers and not hesitating to mete out violence to people who challenge his authority. He even goes as far as banning his own boss from fishing on the reservoir. He wears his armband around even when off duty, believing it makes him look powerful. But he finds one person impervious to the power of his armband, a barmaid he has a crush on. She tells him he’s being a jerk by flashing his armband around and tries to talk reason into him. Over time, he piles up quite a number of enemies, and he gets kicked out of his job after getting into a scuffle with villagers and local police. He finally comes around to admit the bar girl has been right about him and takes off with her after throwing his armband away in the reservoir. (Written by the translator)

    About the author

    Heungil Yun, born in 1942, is an award-winning fiction writer who has written a number of best-selling books. He’s considered a master wordsmith representing the best of Korean literature of the 1970s. His titles include “Rainy Season”, “A Man Left with Nine Pairs of Shoes”, “Armbands” and the short story “Under the Bell Tower”. “A Man Left with Nine Pairs of Shoes” won him the 4th Korean Literary Writers’ Award, and “L.A. for Dreamers” the 15th Korean Creative Literature Award. The majority of his novels grapple with social issues such as human isolation in industrialized society. In addition to writing, Yun served as a professor of literary writing at Hanseo University from 1995 until retirement.

    Media Response/Awards Received

    “Armbands” is a satirical and humorous take on the nature of power and on those who pursue it for self-importance. Its prose exudes uncanny realism, rich with vernacular metaphor, which makes translation hugely challenging but immensely satisfying when it is done right. The translation will allow English-speaking readers access to the literature of a renowned Korean writer who works are accepted as “classics” in modern Korean literature as they are introduced in textbooks and taught in schools. Here are what Korean readers say about the books.


    - “A satire-infused take on the meaning of power and violence, Yun at his best with his glib and humor.”

    - “Recommend it to people wanting to better understand the nature of political power.”

    - “Published 20 some years ago, but it took nothing away from the joy I derived from reading the book”

    - “It left me wondering about the justice of the power being used to rule us, by those who may be wearing around ‘invisible’ armbands”

    - “It features a motif relating to a dark aspect of modern Korean history, captured in masterful satirical writing. Will go down in history as one of the best attempts at delving into what constitutes the psyche of Korean people”

Translated Books (23)

News from Abroad (4)