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ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)
S/N Korean Humanities Vol.3 No.2 pp.81-98

The City of Yanji as a Liminal Space to Imagine Korean Unification in Yi Munyŏl's "An Appointment with His Brother"

Jerôme de Wit


The end of the Korean War did not bring about the end of Korea’s division. The theme of division runs through many South Korean literary works of the twentieth century. This so-called “division literature” can be characterized by its focus on the psychological pain of separation, and the (im)possibility of unification. The personal tragedies of separated families, of dashed hopes and dreams due to history’s vicissitudes, all these aspects appear in Korea’s modern literature and have their root in the Korean War. South Korean author Yi Munyŏl has been personally affected by the Korean War, and his trauma can be found in many of his writings. In “An Appointment with His Brother” (Auwa-ŭi mannam), published in 1995, he tries to find a means through literature to reach common ground with the other side (North Korea) for a possible future unification. He chose the Chinese city of Yanji as the setting for his story, a place where the majority of its population are ethnic Koreans who from 1992 onwards, have had connections with both North and South Korea. The city and its inhabitants serve as a liminal space where Yi Munyŏl can explore possibilities for reconciliation and to give shape to an imagined Korean unification