Somewhere on the periphery of Seoul, between the modern metropolis and the traditional farming communities, lies a ""distant and beautiful place,"" the neighborhood of Wonmi-dong. Here, a young couple from the city struggles to make a home for themselves; a hapless ""salary man"" is forced into door-to-door sales after losing his job; a precocious seven-year-old questions the meaning of friendship and community. Everyone seems to be chasing the intangible dream of a better life. Set against the backdrop of South Korea's breakneck drive for industrialization and economic development in the 1980s, these compassionate and often humorous stories capture the essence of modern South Korean life - including the ubiquitous atmosphere of violence and fear that clouded the country prior to democratization in 1987. They also depict the Korean people's unfailing optimism and love of life. A Distant and Beautiful Place first appeared as a series of linked stories in literary journals between 1985 and 1987. It was published as the collection Wonmi-dong saramdul in 1987 and quickly became a best seller. Yang Kwija, one of South Korea's most respected and popular authors, has since published dozens of novels and shorter pieces.
Kim So-young is a freelance translator living in Seoul. She translates for News-week Korea and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service attached to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Julie Pickering is a translator and editor living in Seattle. Her literary translations include The Prophet and Other Stories, a collection of novellas and short stories by Yi Ch'ongjun, and Hwang Sunwon's The Descendants of Cain, translated with Suh Ji-moon.