"Condolences for the Lost Time" (a literal translation of the Korean title)
By Kim Hong-shin
Kim Hong-shin, the author of Korea's first million-selling novel, "Human Market" (1981), meets readers with "Condolences for the Lost Time," a narrative that delves into the torment and redemption of a person unfairly stigmatized by a group.
The story begins with Han Seo-jin's daughter, Ja-in, reading her father's posthumous letter and retracing his life. Set in 1971, a period marked by heightened tensions between South and North Korea and the looming shadow of dictatorship, the readers follow Lt. Han, an ROTC graduate stationed on the front lines.
When he places a cross on the body of a deceased North Korean soldier and offers a silent prayer, he is accused of being a communist and put in prison. Despite Han's pleas that he was merely extending the most basic form of human respect to the deceased, he is branded as a North Korea supporter and tortured at the hands of the security forces.
Gradually, Han transforms into a tormented soul driven by anger and frustration, losing touch with his own humanity.
The novel's pivotal moment, the praying over a North Korean soldier, draws from the author's real-life experience in 1971 when he served as a second lieutenant in the military, according to Kim, a devout Catholic.
At a recent press conference, the author said that while he, too, was investigated, he was not tortured. The 76-year-old author said that he had carried this tale with him for over 50 years to bring it to life in a story.