Mijeong by Byun Byung-Jun, translated by Joe Johnson
Seven stories capture the disconnected restless wanderings of modern urban youth. The eponymous opening story is a moody reflection on the loneliness of every day life personified by a stranger named Mijeong [the back cover notes, “In Chinese, ‘Mijeong’ means ‘pure beauty,'” which is true, but the meaning is the same in Korean as well … and this is a Korean manwha (comics/graphic novel), so the Chinese reference seems oddly out of place].
The second story, “Yeon-du, seventeen years old,” is perhaps the most developed (certainly the most complicated): with shock, a lonely old man recognizes Yeon-du starring on his porno screen, happens to meet her on the street, and the two lost souls spend a day reminiscing about their past together before they go their separate tragic ways. In “Utility,” a boy who throws chicks off his balcony hoping to force them to fly, tries to help a classmate dispose of the body of her sister who killed herself after murdering the school principal for sexually abusing her. In “202, Villa Siri,” a graphic artist trying to get over his lost love unknowingly controls the future with his everyday actions. In “Courage, grandpa!,” an obsessed elderly cat jealously loses out to a Korean student who falls for his Japanese teacher.
While Byun’s stories are undoubtedly disturbing, they seem to be narratives-still-in-progress. His greater talent (for now) is exemplified in his strikingly memorable black-and-and white visuals (with the exception of a single story captured in muted pastels in the collection’s middle) that silently question, probe, and haunt the reader far beyond the page.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009 (United States)