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KANG KYONG-AE was born in 1906 the daughter of a servant. Having lost her father at age five, she moved with her mother from the village of Songhwa to the small city of Changyŏn, Hwanghae-do, where her mother remarried a man with three older children.

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From Wonso Pond

A Novel of Korea
Kang Kyong-ae

Translated by Samuel Perry

A classic revolutionary novel of the 1930s and the first complete work written by a woman before the Korean War to be published in English, From Wŏnso Pond transforms the love triangle between three protagonists into a revealing portrait of the living conditions that led to modern Korea, both North and South.

"A fatherless young girl now poised to become the victim of [the landlord's] lecherous fangs and paws," begins one of the original newspaper teasers describing From Wŏnso Pond and the fate of its heroine, Sonbi. In a plot rich with Dickensian overtones, the novel paints a vivid picture of life in what is now North Korea through the eyes of Sonbi, her childhood neighbor, Ch’otchae, and a restless law student, Sinch’ol, as they journey separately from a small, impoverished village ruled by the lecherous land baron to the port city of Inch’on.

But life is hardly easier there, as Sonbi wears herself out boiling silk threads twelve hours a day while Ch’otchae and Sinch’ol load rice on the docks. All three become involved with underground activists, fighting the oppression of country and city, as well as their Japanese colonial rulers.

From Wŏnso Pond is an astonishing achievement of a young author whose life and work ended far too soon. Here, we have two girls and two boys, four hearts and two roads. From a colonized Korea, Kang sets the stage for the tragic birth of two rival nations. John Dos Passos and George Orwell may have had a Korean sister yet.”

—Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food For Millionaires

“A vibrant account of the travails of Japanese colonialism as experienced by workers and women by the pioneering feminist writer of the Korean left."

—Andre Schmid, author of Korea Between Empires

“How refreshing it is to have a good old-fashioned story, told without narrative tricks or artifice. Kang Kyong-ae's From Wŏnso Pond is a powerful novel that charts the struggles of her impassioned characters as they learn to live, work, and love. The questions Kang poses and the issues she tackles are as universal as they are enduring. This essential work should be required reading for anyone interested in Korean history and literature.”

—Sung J. Woo, author of Everything Asian: A Novel

“Anyone who wants to understand the terrible, wrenching conflicts that Koreans have endured and transcended in the past century could well begin with Kang Kyong-ae’s brilliant, poignant, masterful novel. Her penetrating eye and sensibility fall on individuals that conventional writers miss—the poor, the frail, the heterodox, the women. To have a voice like this restored and rendered into English with such deftness by Samuel Perry is truly a major achievement.”

—Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago History Department Chairman and the author of The Origins of the Korean War

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