December 04, 2022

Book review: Grappling with the personal and political toll of Korea’s division

Hwang Sok-yong’s ‘The Prisoner’ tells story of his life as a ‘refugee’ from North Korea for whom going home is a crime

Hwang Sok-yong is widely regarded as one of South Korea’s greatest living novelists. Perennially named on the shortlist of authors with a shot at winning the Nobel Prize for literature, the 79-year-old “grandfather of modern Korean fiction” has wrestled with the contradictions and complications of Korea throughout his life and work.

He does so again — personally and powerfully — in his memoir “The Prisoner,” one of his latest works translated into English which centers on his time in jail for multiple visits to North Korea in the late 1980s and early 1990s.