"A Heart Wishing for Blessings" (a literal translation of the Korean title)
By Kim Hye-jin
In Kim Hye-jin's short story, "Mokhwa Mansion," protagonists Man-ok and Sun-mi share a complex relationship of landlord and tenant, finding themselves in equally precarious situations.
They look out for each other, extending neighborly assistance in the beginning. But when things get rough, Man-ok demands that Sun-mi vacate the house as soon as possible. Sun-mi resists and says she will live there until the end of the contract. Eight years of friendship begin to fade in the face of financial challenges.
"A Heart Wishing for Blessings" weaves together eight short stories delving into the concept of “home” in contemporary Korean society, marking Kim's third collection of short stories.
The author delicately portrays tales that could easily unfold in our own neighborhood, such as the deteriorating neighborhood, redevelopment project and people scouting neighborhoods for investments.
The home as an asset or commodity often overshadows its role as a space for living. The stories unfold traversing class, region, generations and gender, leading to conflicts and tensions.
The characters' experiences hint at many societal issues, including real estate scams, and challenges faced by unemployed youth and young adults who are dependent on their parents.
In the author's note, Kim reflects, "The houses I stayed in at different times in my life comforted, encouraged and shaped me -- and became a part of myself. … This book is not so much about homes but rather a narrative about the emotions surrounding them."
Her latest novel in translation, "Concerning My Daughter," (2022) translated by Jamie Chang, was recently adapted into a film and premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in October.