Read Your Way Through Seoul
Han Kang grew up in Seoul, a city that embraces thousands of years of turbulence. She recommends reading that draws from the various eras that have made up her hometown.
Read Your Way Around the World is a series exploring the globe through books.
Seoul is a megacity, with a population of nearly 10 million and a name pronounced like soul. There were times when I couldnt stand its scale and pace of change, but I have managed to find a tranquil corner and continue to live in this city.
Although modern at first glance, Seoul has a long history. People first began to gather here 6,000 years ago. Over the centuries, the city was the center of dynasties that ruled the region, and it remains the capital of South Korea.
In other words, the city exists under thick layers of time. News of construction projects brought to a stop after digging in the city center unearthed drainage facilities from a thousand years ago or porcelain dating back hundreds of years is a reminder of that.
As I walk past the stone markers of old buildings destroyed during the Japanese occupation, from 1910 to 1945, or a brutal ideological war, from 1950 to 1953, I see the royal palaces and traditional private houses that have survived, the apartment complexes built since the 1960s that have evolved into high-rises, the commercial skyscrapers dazzling with night lights. These clashing, overlapping, converging sceneries shape the citys very identity. Its no surprise that many works of literature or art created here are infused with pathos.