Paperback Original. 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 hasnt 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.
"Kims thoughtful, effortless prose is a pleasure. His characters are completely relatable and their story is revelatory. A writer to watchand, of course, read." - Booklist
"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." - Kirkus
"Kim offers a riveting tale of espionage along with keen observations of human behavior." - Publishers Weekly
"What a ride! Young-ha Kim is clearly a writer to watch out for. Your Republic Is Calling You promises to be the breakout book from Korea. Through his compelling narration of events happening in a single day, he leads us into the heart and soul of modern Korea and tells us and what it means to be human in a world bristling with borders. I cannot praise it enough." - Vikas Swarup, author of Slumdog Millionaire
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Rated of 5
Wilhelmina H. (New Port Richey, FL)
One Day, Dual Paths
This story revolves around activities in a single day. It was interesting, kept my attention and the characters are, for the most part, well-developed. The main characters all have multiple paths they follow and choose show to each other and their country is also split in two politically. A well done, tightly focused effort that balances political and moral issues while providing insight into what it might mean to be a forgotten spy suddenly remembered and the power of political duty to country over personal choice.
Rated of 5
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
Your Republic is Calling You - or is it?
If a numerical choice I would have given this a 3.5. Young Ha-Min offers an interesting view into the worlds of North and South Korea as well as that of "spyland" why there was nothing outstanding in the thriller/spy/mystery arenas. The actual usefulness of these "spies" was apparent and so left me rather disappointed. The author has a knack for beautiful phrasing and perhaps this type of novel is not his strong suit. It is possible that something was lost in translation. The story revolves around the lives of several people who seem to be inter locked and yet worlds apart. There were times I felt some of the plots were difficult to track. I will recommend the novel to my book clubs and fellow bookies for some beautiful phrasing, interesting insights into North and South Korea and the world of spying. - but not as a fabulous MUST to read.
Rated of 5
Lisa E. (Cincinnati, OH)
This Book Grew on Me
As I began this book, I found it difficult to penetrate. We are introduced to characters and learn about them without understanding who they are or why they are important. The third-person-omniscient point-of-view also makes it difficult to discern upon whom we should be focusing. But as the book progressed, I discovered that it was about something that matters deeply to anyone my age (43) - the choices we make in life and how we reflect upon those choices in middle age. The spy story, the story of a man who has lived in South Korea since college as a spy for North Korea, is interesting but somewhat difficult to follow - the true value lies in the reflections of this man, his wife, and his former lover upon their lives.
Rated of 5
Dorothy M. (Owatonna, MN)
Your Republic Is Calling
Timely. While reading one day in the life of an embedded North Korean spy in South Korea, the reader not only learns about the society and its people but also how emotional it would be when the spy is called back. Fantastic information on how a spy might be trained and set up in the new country. It has been so long since Ki-yong has heard from Liaison Office 130 he questions if this is a valid message. Most of the day he frantically searches who might have sent it. We meet his family and friends, learning about them, as the time flies. Should he tell everyone? Should he go back up North? Some of the minor characters might have been excluded because for me it took a while to keep them all in order.
I really enjoyed the novel and wondered how closely his training relates to the spies we have just heard about in the media.
Rated of 5
Rob K. (Kalaheo, HI)
Secondary Storylines Weaken Plot
The book excels when the focus is on the protagonist, Ki-yong. It's worth reading just to see what happens to this North Korean spy living in Seoul who is ordered home in 24 hours. There's enough intrigue and conflict with his character for a great novel. The description and contrast between both North and South Korea was fascinating. I found myself losing interest in the novel, however, when the story detours and tries to develop the characters of Ki-yong's wife and daughter. We needed to know about them but not to the extent the author believes. I found myself skimming a lot until the action returned to Ki-yong. With some additional editing I think this novel has a chance to be really, really good.
Rated of 5
Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)
By Page 12...
I knew this was not going to be a book I'd enjoy and I was so correct. Page 12: "The frightened horses dwarf the drivers in their cars, who instinctively shrink away when the horses leap by, their large penises jiggling at eye level." Frightened horses do not leap with penises jiggling -- my guess is this writer has never seen a horse at all. And as far as spies go, I think he should go back to writer's school. The book is filled with nonsense and filler that adds nothing to the story like the above sentence.
I did not care for the characters and only stayed with the book in hopes I'd learn something about North and/or South Korea - very interesting countries in a very interesting time. The main character, Ki-yong, could have been developed and this might have provided some depth to the story. Yes, the novel is about a day in the life of a spy but his daughter's and wife's sexual romps, work days, school chums, etc. do not add anything to this story. The book does not know if it's about spies or soft porn - both of which failed in my estimation.
I would never read another book by this author or recommend this book to anyone. There were moments when I thought something would be developed and the history of Ki-yong's early life did hold some promise. But nothing came of this spark - it died before the chapter was complete and back to the wife and her young lover and his friends. Spare me, please.
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 and prolific Korean writer of his generation, publishing five novels and three collections of short stories since 1996.
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