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Your Republic Is Calling You Paperback – 28 Sep 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (28 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151015457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151015450
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 383,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The romantic belief is that art can either familiarize the strange or estrange the familiar. Now here's a guy who can do both at the same time. Young-ha Kim, very much like his protagonist, is a spy.He is spying on humanity; the secret information he provides is invaluable." Etgar Keret, author of "The Nimrod Flipout
"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, heleads 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"
""Your Republic Is Calling" "You" is that rare thing, a novel that is simultaneously suspenseful and meditative, an intriguingly provocative novel about freedom, duty, and inevitability. This highly-charged novel kept me up half the night, turning pages; I spent the other half wide awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking and thinking about it." Dean Bakopoulos, author of "Please Don t Come Back from the Moon
"An ordinary day in the life of a North Korean film distributor turns into an extraordinary adventure when it is revealed that he is a South Korean sleeper agent.Young-ha Kim narrates the formidable choice that his hero will have to make with unflinching honesty and masterful suspense. "Your Republic is CallingYou" is a thoroughly engrossing book." Laila Lalami, author of "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits" and "Secret Son""[An] ambitious novel from one of Korea s most admired writers . . . 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 Reviews"
"Deeply compelling . . .a riveting tale of espionage along with keen observations of human behavior." -- "Publishers Weekly

From the Back Cover

"What a ride! Kim leads us into the heart and soul of modern Korea and tells us what it means to be human in a world bristling with borders. I cannot praise it enough." Vikas Swarup, author of Slumdog MillionaireA foreign film importer, Ki-Yong is a family man with a wife and daughter. He is also a North Korean spy who has been living among his enemies for twenty-one years.Suddenly he receives a mysterious e-mail, a directive seemingly from the home office. He has one day to return to headquarters. He hasn t heard from Pyongyang in over ten years. Why is he being called back now? Has someone in the South discovered his secret identity?Spanning the course of one day, Your Republic Is Calling You is an emotionally taut, psychologically haunting novel that reveals the depth of one particularly gripping family secret. Confronting moral questions on small and large scales, it is a searing study of the long and insidious effects of dividing a nation. "Kim, very much like his protagonist, is a spy. He is spying on humanity; the secret information he provides is invaluable." Etgar Keret, author of The Nimrod Flipout"Simultaneously suspenseful and meditative, this highly-charged novel about freedom, duty, and inevitability kept me up half the night, turning pages; I spent the other half wide awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking and thinking about it." Dean Bakopoulos, author of Please Don t Come Back from th e Moon
Young-HA KIM is the award-winning author of I Have the Right to Destroy Myself which was highly acclaimed upon publication in the United States. He has earned a reputation as one of the most talented Korean writers of his generation."

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this - the everyday story of a North Korean minor spy who has managed to survive and make a living in a changing South Korea. When he is called back to the North after 20 years, he begins to review his life while we see what ordinary life is becoming in the South through the eyes of his wife and daughter. Well written and translated.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good tale but bits will be missed as we are not Korean and will miss the nuances of the tale
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not as engaging as I expected.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8c7d41d4) out of 5 stars 30 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c6e88) out of 5 stars Actually 4.5 3 Oct. 2010
By Charles C. Montgomery - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'd really give this a 4.5, since I think Kim has better work yet to come, but I'm loathe to give it a 4.

In the Kafka-esque `Your Republic is Calling You" Kim Young-ha creates his most integrated and human work.Intricately plotted and multiply narrated, "Your Republic is Calling You" begins a bit angularly, as if Kim is trying to work too many things into too little space. There is lots of expository internal-monologue revealing histories, judgments, and nostalgic presentations of past events. Things settle down however, and as it focuses on characters for longer periods of time, the book catches its stride.

The plot is deceptively simple - it follows one day in the life of a North Korean spy who is apparently being called back home. This call unravels his life in ways that are predictable and unpredictable.

The "spying" metaphor is at the heart the book as all its characters are, one way or another, undercover. It is one of Kim's skills that he reveals in a matter-of-fact fashion the difference between the public images of his characters and the lives they lead in their heads, in seedy motel rooms, prosaic offices, schools, and even in shootouts on the beach. Kim never shows his cards early, and as he makes each reveal, the tension and angst increase. By the end of "Republic," the undercover agent in each character has been exposed and each character squirms in the unexpected light.

Kim's writing is razor-sharp. Any reader who has been faced with the threat of loss will recognize Kim's description of the "premature nostalgia" that such a threat engenders. His writing about this general condition is specific and clever. A good example of Kim's specific descriptive ability is when he describes the illicit but often silly (and still dead-serious) thrill that comes with youthful rebellion:

For Southern youth in their early twenties, having been indoctrinated in anti-Communist education in schools, speaking this way felt vulgar, much like hearing a prim woman refer to a penis as a cock. At first, it was difficult for them to refer to the two heads of state as Dear Leader or The General, but once they did, they shivered with the excitement that came with breaking the law.

That's a passage that brilliantly outlines the borders and overlaps between "Big R" rebellion and the "Little R" rebellion of all young rebels. "Republic" is full of this kind of brilliant writing.

Which leads to a word related to translation: Kim Chi-young, who translated "Republic," has done a job that even surpasses her previous excellent translation of "A Toy City." Kim Chi-young is one of the few translators whose name alone, on a dustcover, would persuade me to purchase an unknown book.

This is an outstanding book and as the important threads tie together at the conclusion it moves at relentless speed. "Your Republic is Calling You" is taut, engaging, ironic, scathing, brutal and resigned in turns. The last 40 pages are exceptionally tightly written and the screws tighten, page by page, as life and a history of subterranean decisions conspire to strangle the lives of all the "agents" of the story.

In a brief coda Kim leaves us with a vision of a "new day" that can be read as ironic, hopeful or merely repetitive - In a world where everyone is a tout and `hopeful' is lagging at the rail.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c6edc) out of 5 stars Nothing Lost in Translation Here 16 Mar. 2011
By Robert J. York - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book succeeds because Kim's prose has vitality, even when translated, and his characters are easy to identify with, even if they are North Korean spies or are carrying on sordid affairs with those half their age. After the a-bit-too-ethereal and bizarre I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, Kim finds the mesmerizing voice that worked so effectively in Photo Shop Murder and stretches it out over 300 pages. Hopefully this book will land him the international audience he deserves.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c8330) out of 5 stars A Novel About the Anonymity of Modern Life 3 May 2013
By M. C. Buell - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ki-yong is a North Korean spy who's been living as a sleeper in Seoul for the past 21 years. After 10 years of no contact he's suddenly given the order to liquidate everything and return to the North in the next 24 hours. But this is not a spy novel. If you're looking for a thriller packed with action and international intrigue look elsewhere. In fact, the spy angle is more a metaphor than anything else; we are all spies, all double agents, in one way or another. This is a novel about life and change, and the way it all seems to just sneak up on us. Ki-yong has grown comfortable in his assumed life in the South; his handlers have forgotten about him, he has a wife and daughter who don't know his secret, he enjoys his work, and has settled into a mundane existence. What was once an assumed persona is now the real man; what was once the real man in now a fading memory. But now the order to return has come down he has a decision to make, and ideals to reexamine. Does he still believe in the Socialist Paradise, does the revolutionary desire still burn in him, does he stay or does he go "home"? Meanwhile his wife, Ma-ri, struggles with her own moral decisions. Bored with her humdrum life, distanced from her secretive husband, she has taken a young lover who pushes her to do things she's not sure she's willing to do. And their daughter, Hyun-mi, has her own story to tell. On the surface her struggles seem like typical shallow teenage stuff, but they serve to highlight the theme of choice, and how our choices, big and small, affect us in ways we could never guess. The blurb on the front compares Kim Young-ha to Haruki Murakami, which is something I generally dislike seeing. Not because I dislike Murakami, but because it seems that every East Asian writer is automatically compared to him. However, in this instance I think the comparison is apt. Don't expect any fantastical elements, Kim is firmly ground in reality, but his tone and prose style are reminiscent of Murakami, and he deals with similar themes of isolation, anonymity, and division. Your Republic Is Calling You is a great novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for modern Korean lit.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c86fc) out of 5 stars Your Republic Is Calling You... 31 Aug. 2010
By D. S. HARDEN - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What struck me the most about this book was the conflicts between Ki-yong (the North Korean Spy), Ma-ri (his South Korean wife) and Hyon-mi (their daughter) and the world that they operated in.

He loves his family, but there's not a lot of communication going between husband-wife (and his wife definitely has her own issues) and father-daughter (who, as a teenager, is just starting to really deal with, among other things - boys! But, at least Dad tries...) He is a man, seemingly worn down by life and work.

Until he gets the call to 'return home' from the North. Things begin to 'heat up' at that point. I suggest that you read for yourself.

I like to believe that she loves her family, but that doesn't come through in this book, as she is always too tired, or pre-occupied with her own problems (and she has a...problem - though some might argue). What she appears to want and/or need She doesn't seem to be getting it at home, so...(you know the rest). Again, I suggest that you read for yourself.

She struck me as a typical teenager, she's very intelligent, but she's also stumbling, with a particular guy no less. It's funny how she deduces his character, and is determined him (mother him, in my opinion), maybe to compensate for what she doesn't get at home. She's definitely the most normal of the three.

Honestly, the end chapters confused me to the point where I had to read them again. My confusion, he was discovered, but truly, who discovered him? The South? Or, had the North been watching him for the longest time and let him operate? I'll have to figure it out I guess...(don't want to give anything away!)

Overall, I liked the book, and would recommend as a 'change of pace' (as it's part spy novel, love story, teen story - not recommended for young teens however, as it does get pretty racy in parts!)

My rating: Four stars!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c6f00) out of 5 stars This Book Is Calling You 10 Sept. 2012
By M. Smith - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Your Republic is Calling You is a fascinating book that almost unintentionally miscategorizes itself. It is commonly referred to as a "spy thriller", but I'm happy to say that it is not really much of one. There are indeed spy elements and a few scenes are genuinely exhilarating, but make no mistake; this isn't a North Korean version of Jason Bourne or James Bond. As entertaining as those franchises are, they've been done and they're predictable. Your Republic Is Calling You is so much more.

First off, it's a character-driven story chock-full of social commentary. The almost dozen supporting characters have plenty of back story and Kim boldly expounds upon each person's "undercover" life that he or she carries with them. Some are full of heartbreak, others are full of debauchery. Either way, it's a grippingly woven web of interrelated events miraculously occurring throughout the span of a single day. Everyone, it seems, has an undercover life, so to say, and the spy theme extends well beyond the protagonist.

Speaking of whom, Ki-Yong isn't your archetypal spy. He wasn't genetically engineered to possess superhuman perception skills or advanced martial arts training. He's just good at laying low, blending in, and not making a scene. After twenty years in North Korea, he infiltrated the South in the 80s and successfully gathered and reported data for some time. After his supervisor was ousted, time passed and soon his liaison office seemed to forget about Ki-Yong's quiet but secret existence. Eventually, his undercover life became his real life and he quietly settled into a uneventful middle-class actuality that feels more and more like reality. However, after a decade of no communication, he suddenly receives an encrypted message to return "home". He wonders if the message is intended to save his life from the South Korean government's persistent investigators or to bring him home in order to punish him for lazily adhering to his new capitalist lifestyle. The reader then follows Ki-Yong as he reacts to the news and tries to make sense of his former identity.

This is Kim Young-ha's fourth novel, which was originally published in 2006 under the title "Empire of Light". I enjoyed Kim's portrayal of cultural identity crisis and applaud the translator for making it not only a salient ride, but also lots of fun. I recommend it for anyone looking at a unique take on South Korea's rapid commercialization and/or cultural identity confusion within Korea. Two thumbs up.
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