Healing and transcendence in war
The Rainy Spell
By Yun Heung-gil
(Jimoondang, 5,000 won)
First published in 1978, Yun Heung-gil’s “The Rainy Spell” is still regarded as one of the finest short stories dealing with the Korean War (1950-1953) experience.
The novel tells a story of a Korean family that has two of its members placed in the opposing camps during the war. It is told from the perspective of a young boy, who later gets caught up in the intense and emotional fight between his two grandmothers.
The story begins as the boy’s maternal grandmother, whose son is a member of the South Korean army, receives an official notice that he has been killed in a battle. Deeply hurt and upset by the news, the old woman starts to curse North Korean soldiers, saying she wishes all of them dead.
This soon enrages the boy’s paternal grandmother, who desperately awaits the safe return of his son who has been placed in the North Korean military. The gloomy rainy season continues as the two distressed women begin to express their innermost feelings against each other.
Things become worse when the North Korean solider of the family does not return home on the day he is expected. While almost every member of the family assumes him dead, his mother firmly believes he is still alive and continues to wait for his return.
While the rainfall gets heavier, a wounded snake, bleeding from its wounds, appears in the yard of the house. The boy’s paternal grandmother, severely tormented by the long wait for her son, loses her consciousness after seeing the bleeding reptile.
Yun’s therapeutic use of metaphors are mainly portrayed through images of rain and a wounded snake, depicted as the reincarnation of the cursed dead soldier ― gives both a spiritual and vivid account of the war experience.
The final reconciliation between the two women, after a series of emotional upsets and spiritual rituals, offers a rare message of hope for healing and transcendence.
Born in 1942 in North Jeolla Province, writer Yun Heung-gil studied Korean literature at WonKwang University. He is known for works that are realistically reflective of modern Korean history.