Issue #222: The Quality of Your Life by Min Jin Lee

222_coverWhen we’re young, we tend to be idealistic. Everything is new and exciting—especially when it comes to love. A heart that has never been broken before is easier to give away. We do it without knowing the danger. We offer it with both hands. This kind of blind, joyous affection is beautifully captured in our new issue, Min Jin Lee’s “The Quality of Your Life.” Set in Korea in 1932, the story follows Sunja, a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Her days are filled with hard work and shopping at the daily market for the boarding house run by her mother. And then, in an instant, everything changes. Sunja crosses paths with an older man named Hansu, who travels for business between Korea and Japan. Soon the blossoming relationship between these two characters becomes as complicated and fraught as the relationship between those two nations. Sunja struggles to maintain her identity, just as her fellow Koreans work against the historical ties that bind them to Japan. This theme continues in Min Jin Lee’s forthcoming novel, Pachinko. Find out more in our Q&A, and then continue on Sunja’s epic journey, where she never gives up fighting for the people she loves.

2 thoughts on “Issue #222: The Quality of Your Life by Min Jin Lee

  1. Wish it was a bit more momentous and the father character needed to be built better in the first two-thirds of the story, but there’s an evocative quality here, you really feel immersed in the time and place.

  2. Congratulations to all involved in the publication of this story. It was a slow start but, yes, with the twisting of nipples in the marketplace, you know things are not going to end well. I’ve imagined stories set in this area during this time period, and I’ve wondered about Korean identity under colonial rule. As a colony of Japan, did Koreans think of themselves as Korean or Japanese? The frequent and easy movement between the peninsula of Korea and Japan (described in the story) suggests they were one in the same, but Korean (and Japanese) history tells us otherwise, Koreans a poor peasant people, Japan a world power and their colonizer. Hansu tells Sunja to watch out lest she get inscripted as a comfort girl. Did Hansu think of himself as Japanese of Korean? Did Sunja think of him as Japanese or Korean? Based on the unequal power structure, I’m going to say it mattered. Will definitely pick up Patchinko!

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