Who Ate Up All the Shinga?: An Autobiographical Novel (Weatherhead Books on Asia)
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Park Wan-suh is a best-selling and award-winning writer whose work has been widely translated and published throughout the world. Who Ate Up All the Shinga? is an extraordinary account of her experiences growing up during the Japanese occupation of Korea and the Korean War, a time of great oppression, deprivation, and social and political instability.
Park Wan-suh was born in 1931 in a small village near Kaesong, a protected hamlet of no more than twenty families. Park was raised believing that "no matter how many hills and brooks you crossed, the whole world was Korea and everyone in it was Korean." But then the tendrils of the Japanese occupation, which had already worked their way through much of Korean society before her birth, began to encroach on Park's idyll, complicating her day-to-day life.
With acerbic wit and brilliant insight, Park describes the characters and events that came to shape her young life, portraying the pervasive ways in which collaboration, assimilation, and resistance intertwined within the Korean social fabric before the outbreak of war. Most absorbing is Park's portrait of her mother, a sharp and resourceful widow who both resisted and conformed to stricture, becoming an enigmatic role model for her struggling daughter. Balancing period detail with universal themes, Park weaves a captivating tale that charms, moves, and wholly engrosses.
she began to worry that I might get confused and give the wrong one during the test. In trying to acquire peace of mind for herself, she almost drove me crazy. Out of the blue, she’d blurt, “Where do you live? Where’s your house? What do you say if you’re lost?” Then I had to give our address in Hyŏnjŏ-dong. If, though, she said, “Where is your house? Now you’re taking the test in front of the teacher,” then I had to give the fake address in Sajik-dong. Mother was petrified that I’d confuse
morning. Those buckets had to last not only for cooking and drinking, but also for bathing and laundry. For over a month after my arrival in Seoul, Mother nagged me. She was intent on my becoming, first, a model tenant, and second, a frugal water consumer. “Don’t throw the water away after you wash your face. Wash your feet with it, and then use it to wash the rags. When you’re done, I’ll sweep the yard and wet it down with what’s left.” Mother called the alley in front of our house “the yard.”
go with the words. Our textbook had a picture of cherry blossoms in full bloom, and cherry blossoms were already falling from the trees in Sajik Park. But although I climbed a hill every day on the way to school, I thirsted after real mountains and a spring worthy of the name. Not a single blade of mugwort sprouted at the foot of Mount Inwang, whose arid soil resembled pulverized rock. All that grew from it were doggedly clinging acacias. I’d never seen such trees in Pakchŏk Hamlet and found it
cropping up all over. A childhood friend was married off to a faraway family. Her mother held my hands and wept. Getting married at my age! I was only thirteen. It was common enough in the countryside to marry daughters off young in order to have one less mouth to feed, but the comfort women issue made matters worse. Families with sons wanted grandchildren before the boys were taken into the army. Uncle had avoided extremes of exploitation thanks to his position, paltry though it may have been,
some rice, if only a few handfuls, so she could cook her a proper meal or two after the baby was born. Mother resorted to taking out the hulled millet used to stuff my nephew’s pillow and making gruel from it along with some leathery vegetable leaves. On his next visit, Brother’s colleague brought an official letter confirming Brother’s credentials and granting him right of safe passage. And so Brother reported to work, only to be conscripted for the “people’s volunteer army” three days later.