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Your Republic Is Calling You
Cover of Your Republic Is Calling You
Your Republic Is Calling You
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A foreign film importer, Gi-yeong is a family man with a wife and daughter. An aficionado of Heineken, soccer, and sushi, he is also a North Korean spy who has been living among his enemies for twenty-one years.

Suddenly he receives a mysterious email, a directive seemingly from the home office. He has one day to return to headquarters. He hasn't heard from anyone in over ten years. Why is he being called back now? Is this message really from Pyongyang? Is he returning to receive new orders or to be executed for a lack of diligence? Has someone in the South discovered his secret identity? Is this a trap?

Spanning the course of one day, Your Republic Is Calling You is an emotionally taut, psychologically astute, haunting novel that reveals the depth of one particularly gripping family secret and the way in which we sometimes never really know the people we love. Confronting moral questions on small and large scales, it mines the political and cultural transformations that have transformed South Korea since the 1980s. A lament for the fate of a certain kind of man and a certain kind of manhood, it is ultimately a searing study of the long and insidious effects of dividing a nation in two.

A foreign film importer, Gi-yeong is a family man with a wife and daughter. An aficionado of Heineken, soccer, and sushi, he is also a North Korean spy who has been living among his enemies for twenty-one years.

Suddenly he receives a mysterious email, a directive seemingly from the home office. He has one day to return to headquarters. He hasn't heard from anyone in over ten years. Why is he being called back now? Is this message really from Pyongyang? Is he returning to receive new orders or to be executed for a lack of diligence? Has someone in the South discovered his secret identity? Is this a trap?

Spanning the course of one day, Your Republic Is Calling You is an emotionally taut, psychologically astute, haunting novel that reveals the depth of one particularly gripping family secret and the way in which we sometimes never really know the people we love. Confronting moral questions on small and large scales, it mines the political and cultural transformations that have transformed South Korea since the 1980s. A lament for the fate of a certain kind of man and a certain kind of manhood, it is ultimately a searing study of the long and insidious effects of dividing a nation in two.

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About the Author-
  • Young-ha Kim's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself won Korea's Munhak-dongne prize and was a Border's Original Voices pick upon publication in the United States. He has earned a reputation as the most talented Korean writer of his generation, publishing five novels and three collections of short stories since 1996.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 26, 2010
    Spanning a single day, this tense spy novel from Kim (I Have the Right to Destroy Myself), marred only by some stilted prose, is also a deeply compelling study of the self and varying themes of trust. Kim Ki-yong, a North Korean spy who's lived undercover for 21 years, has fully adapted to life in Seoul, South Korea, where he runs a successful foreign-film importing business, owns a home, and has a wife and teenage daughter, neither of whom is aware of his past or actual identity. As Ki-yong ponders returning to the austere and sterile militaristic regime of the North after receiving a coded message from his handler ("Liquidate everything and return immediately"), his wife, Ma-ri, struggles with infidelity and his daughter, Hyon-mi, maneuvers the tumultuous and tricky landscape of adolescence. Kim offers a riveting tale of espionage along with keen observations of human behavior.

  • Kirkus

    September 15, 2010

    A spy living a fabricated life as a respectable businessman, husband and father is the embattled protagonist of this ambitious novel from one of Korea's most admired writers.

    We quickly learn that Kim Ki-Yong, an importer of foreign films living in Seoul, was in fact born in North Korea, where he was trained as a spy and sent to South Korea to lay the groundwork for more "agents" like himself to infiltrate the territory pronounced disloyal to increasingly megalomaniacal dictator Kim Jong-il. But Young-Ha Kim (I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, 2007) has even bigger fish to fry, in a subtly layered structure of emotionally complex parallel stories. Disregarding an e-mail message that orders him to "return immediately" to North Korea, Kim Ki-Yong scrambles to stay a step ahead of fellow agents watching (and closing in on?) him while attempting to calm the women who do and do not love him. These are his wife Ma-ri, aging ungracefully and entangled in a bitter affair with a calculating younger man; his mistress Soji, who's the first to sense the full extent of his remoteness and detachment ("It always seemed you weren't really from here"); and his adolescent daughter Hyon-mi, a "stellar student" and expert player of the classic game Go, whose inchoate relationship with a male classmate subtly parallels both her parents' erotic misadventures. On another level, Kim's secrets and demons are contrasted with those of the allies, observers and enemies who will determine the shape of his ever-narrowing future. This intense novel's bristling plot—confined to the events of a single day—ironically echoes that of Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses, in the experiences of Kim (Leopold Bloom), Ma-ri (his wife Molly) and Hyon-mi (Leopold's ideal "son" Stephen Dedalus).

    Challenging, occasionally forced and turgid, but energized by a powerful sense of the difficulty of "belonging" in a dangerous place and time. Perhaps the most intriguing and accomplished Korean fiction yet to appear in English translation.

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2010
    An e-mail changes Kim Ki-yongs life. Seemingly a piece of spam in the Seoul residents in-box, its actually a coded communiqu' from Pyongyang, ordering him to return to North Koreaimmediately. Ki-yong isnt a sleeper spy, exactly; its just that he hasnt received any orders in 10 years. Now, at age 42, he has spent exactly half his life in South Korea. He lives comfortably, working as an importer of foreign films, with lockstep life in the north only a distant memory. Will he meet the minisub and go back? Or will he defy the command and stay? This isnt really a spy story but a fascinating, personal portrait of life in a divided country and its toll on the citizens psyches. Its not just Ki-yongs story, either: his alienated wife, Ma-ri, is on her own intense journey of self-discovery, and, in complete ignorance of her parents worries, daughter Hyon-mi struggles with boys, school, and growing up. Kims thoughtful, effortless prose is a pleasure. His characters are completely relatable and their story is revelatory. A writer to watchand, of course, read.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

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Young-ha Kim
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