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Your Republic Is Calling You

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  720 ratings  ·  120 reviews
A foreign film importer, Gi-yeong is a family man with a wife and daughter. An aficionado of Heineken, soccer, and sushi, he is also a North Korean spy who has been living among his enemies for twenty-one years. Suddenly he receives a mysterious email, a directive seemingly from the home office. He has one day to return to headquarters. He hasn't heard from anyone in over ...more
Paperback, 326 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,989)
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I started out this book with serious doubts. The description looked really good but I had read a previous book by the author and hated it -- honestly it was one of the worst books I've read in my entire life. But I thought I'd give this a go, and just give up if I didn't like it. I'm glad I read it because it was excellent. It's a spy story, but it's more than just a thriller. All the characters have depth and texture.

The entire novel takes place over the course of one day in the lives of Ki-Yon
Jason (RawBlurb)
I imagine being a sleeper agent is a lot like crashing a drunken party. You walk in the door, pretending to be invited. You eat a couple chips and drink a beer. You join conversations and chat with people, avoiding specific conversation topics but not really holding back. ultimately the consequence of your actions may be discovery and ejection from the party. Depending on the climate of the group, you could be offered to stay, or you could be painfully beat to the ground, you could simply be ign ...more
Your Republic Is Calling You is more than just a piece of Korean literature. It is, on some levels, a Korean Ulysses.

Like in Ulysses, events unfold over the course of one day. In this case, the day is divided into chapters with timestamped titles. A husband and wife (along with their teenage daughter) diverge at the beginning of the story, not to reconvene until the end of the day after coping with their greater geocultural reality. Ma-ri, embroiled in an affair with a younger man, is not unlik
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Ki-yong is a North Korean spy who's been living as a sleeper in Seoul for the past 21 years. After 10 years of no contact he's suddenly given the order to liquidate everything and return to the North in the next 24 hours. But this is not a spy novel. If you're looking for a thriller packed with action and international intrigue look elsewhere. In fact, the spy angle is more a metaphor than anything else; we are all spies, all double agents, in one way or another. This is a novel about life and c ...more

He will have to go from an existence surrounded by books to one made up of walls. p. 56

The plot is interesting: a North Korean spy who has been living as a South Korean for 15 years without hearing from his handlers, is finally contacted to return to North Korea. By this time he has married and had a daughter. So now what? Take them? Leave them? They are unaware of his secret existence, which was easy to hide as he had no assignments the whole time. Or should he even respond? Is he a dead m
Ik ben dit boek gaan lezen met de gedachte dat het een spannende thriller zou zijn die de politieke verschillen tussen Noord en Zuid-Korea aan het licht zou brengen. Wat ik kreeg was een geforceerde poging tot literatuur. Kim Young-Ha doet teveel zijn best om literair over te komen. Helaas kunnen zijn mooie woorden het dunne plot niet verbergen. Het blijft een feit dat je de eerste tweehonderd bladzijden niet meer krijgt dan personages die van plaats naar plaats gaan en daar ter plekke terug den ...more
May 20, 2011 John rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: asia
This author doesn't seem to be very well-known among most Koreans, but he does sell rather a lot of books to the foreign-born expatriate crowd, who, like me, want to further submerse themselves in the culture by sampling the country's literary output. Unfortunately, other than the fact that this book was first written in Korean, and not many Westerners can claim to have read any books by Korean writers, it just doesn't have a lot going for it. Mr. Kim obviously has high literary ambitions, but t ...more
Julia Reed
I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I could have read it in the original Korean. The translation was definitely awkward in places, and the cultural references flew right over my head (I clearly need to read up on Korean pop stars). Still, this is a fascinating tale about a North Korean spy, placed in South Korea as an undercover operative, but then apparently forgotten about for the past 10 years. In the meantime he's gotten married, had a child, and established himself as an im ...more
A very different and insightful look into the fractured Koreas. More literary than spy or mystery. The entire book takes place within 24 hours. Ki-yong is 42 years old with 21 years spent in each of the Koreas. He's a NK agent( almost forgotten by the north) living and working in Seoul. He has a business and is married with one bright and charming daughter. His wife works as a VW salesperson. His entire life is turned inside out one day when he gets a message via email to return to NK. His anxie ...more
Alexander Fitzgerald
I meant to go to sleep one night a few days ago after reading for twenty minutes and I ended up reading for five hours. I finished the rest today. The book is called Your Republic Is Calling You. It’s about a North Korean spy who has lived in Seoul for 20 years. He has not received a new order in ten years. He logs into his email at work and gets a mysterious phone call, asking that he checks a specific junk email. He follows the page and receives an order, that he must get back to Pyongyang at ...more
Pardon the one star that was omitted in this review.

The connection that one feels when they read a novel, especially when it deals with the protagonist harboring a secret, is unmatched when they can understand the protagonist's plight and can somewhat relate to them.
Despite the striking colloquialism in which Kim uses throughout the novel, it seems almost impossible to "keep up" with Ki-yong, thus losing that one star.
Given that the novel spans the time of a little under 24 hours, it doesn't al
C. Adam Volle
I found this book much better on my second reading, knowing in advance that I was in for a gloomy meditation of life in the South Korean middle class instead of a thriller, and possessed of the frame of reference necessary to mentally fill in the gaps of otherwise sparse descriptions.
Kim Kiyong spent the first half of his life in North Korea, and the next half in South Korea. He was a spy who was sent to wait for orders, and he blended into South Korean society gradually, marrying and having a daughter, running a film import business, and taking part in capitalist past-times such as watching sports and drinking beer. He thought he was forgotten by the North, but then he receives a strange email which turns his life upside down. His wife, Mari, is at the same time struggling ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Andrew added it
Shelves: korean-fiction
An analysis of a really fucking rough day.

We've got Mr. Ordinary here, who it turns out is a North Korean sleeper agent. Meanwhile, he's been called back to the homeland, and the motives of everyone around him are suddenly called into question. And on top of that, his wife's spending a lot of time with really profoundly unlikable men in cheap motels.

While the issues of ideology and history and war and espionage play their roles, as they doubtless would, they play second fiddle-- this isn't a tre
Yet again Kim Young-Ha doesn't fail to deliver.

Your Republic is Calling You is utterly fantastic and my only problems with the book are more problems with me than it is with Kim's writing. (I have kind of burnt myself out on reading and have forced my way through my last few books. Also - romanization is the McCune-Reischauer version, not the Revised-Romanization one, so a lot of the names and locations were a little backwards for me. Though to be honest I would have preferred them in Hangul, b
When you're a spy, and you've gone a number of years without anyone accusing you of it, you start to forget that's what you are. You settle in and soon enough your false self becomes your real self, with the original self starting to seem like another life, a facade, or as though it never existed at all. So when you get an email giving you a rendezvous time and extraction point, it's tough to match that up with your life as a small business owner, husband, and father. Add in the demise in ideolo ...more
I got this free from "First Reads" - thanks Goodreads!!

This book all takes place in one day - following the lives of a family. The story is interesting and well written. It's a little bit of a mystery (Ki-yong is trying to figure out why he's being called back to North Korea), and the plot has some unexpected twists and coincidences. Overall I enjoyed it.

Surprisingly, I didn't get much of a feel for Korea from reading it. I really like books where the setting is a character - and I felt like thi
Benjamin Harris
This was an altogether interesting book and I really enjoyed the main spy narrative. He seemed comfortable writing from Ki-Yong's perspective, and did well in those bits. To me, the best part of the book, and what makes it memorable in my mind, are the snippets about daily life differences between North and South Korea, things that we westerners don't always think about or realize. I of course knew that the South Koreans have a great deal more freedom, but Kim shows us this in great detail, focu ...more
Interesting premise. A North Korean mole living in South Korea since his early twenties is suddenly and inexplicably called back to his original homeland. He has one day to sort out the various threads of his life and to decide whether to comply or run. His troubled wife and emerging adolescent daughter deal with their own conflicts during the same twenty-four hours, unaware of the impending doom hanging over all of them. The story was engaging enough to hold my interest, but I found the prose a ...more
A North Korean spy, having lived under a different identity in South Korea receives a message one day recalling him back to his homeland, his assignment, apparently over. He has 24 hours to return and eliminate all incriminating evidence.

We watch him through the day slowly attempting to erase himself from the life he has built for himself in South Korea since he was sent over and adopted a dead South Korean man's identity more than 30 years ago. In the process of erasing traces of his life, we s
Despite the fact that this novel is considered a mystery or a thriller, it doesn't really feel like one. The only aspect of the book that really brings in the suspense is "Why does Ki-yong have to go back to the North?" Most of the book is really an observation of life and the people who inhabit it.

Ki-Yong is a spy from North Korea, he experiences a few incidents in his life that made his home feel like a cold shell, a horrible place to live. He grew up as an orphan, went to college, and was the
Please accept my apologies for a single star in this review. I could not like the narrator and I could not care about him. Was this because the author twiddled the time line so much I couldn't spend any time trying to get to know him? Or was it because Mr. Kim expressly desired his readership not to know his protagonist--his being a mole and all so deeply under cover he was unknown even to himself?

Perhaps you've heard me bitch about the loss of texture in translated texts before. Writers write b
Dan Murphy

Here you will find both a good page-turner - with an unknown outcome right up to the end - and a nice contemporary account of modern South Korean society. The central dilemma within Your Republic is Calling You is whether Ki-young, a long-time North Korean spy living in Seoul for many years, will return to the North after unexpectedly receiving an encrypted message to come back. While he struggles with his ultimate decision, you get to know his wife, Ma-ri, daughter, Hyon-mi, and various other m
Audrey Chin
I read this book because I'll be on a writer's festival with the author. It's my first time reading about modern Korea and I was impressed how wonderfully the book highlighted both modern South Korean angst as well as the backstory about North Korea.

About one day in the life of a North Korean spy who's gets activated after a long winter, the story highlights the conflicted feelings of someone who's grown at home in hostile territory and comfortable with his other persona, but must now confront t
For a story which (in part) focuses on a North Korean sleeper agent planted in South Korea who is keeping his origins hidden from his wife and daughter, there is a shocking lack of suspense.

Ki-yong: His parts could have been tense. Or even dark comedy. But it was all just so bland. Well, except for maybe the flashbacks to his time being trained while in North Korea.

Ma-ri: Her parts are what turned this book from merely-boring to damn-annoying. Nothing good came out of Ma-ri being on the page.

Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
una giornata infernale

Kim Kiyong è una persona normale e, però, è anche una spia nordcoreana, la sua vita scorre serena finchè non viene richiamato indietro, lui era convinto che si fossero dimenticati di averlo lasciato sul campo, non vorrebbe tornare, ha paura di quel che gli potrebbe accadere e le alternative che gli vengono in mente non sono certo più rassicuranti della sua attuale situazione...

La Corea ha subito tantissimi cambiamenti negli ultimi quarant'anni, forse è uno dei paesi che si
Young-ha Kim is a really fantastic writer. I thought the plot of the book was interesting, but I was expecting it to be a bit too preachy, or a bit too action-packed. It was neither of those things, but ended up being almost boring in a way that I couldn't put it down. It was intriguing, yet I couldn't understand why: essentially it is just life and relationships and everything a regular adult experiences. Except not. The obvious answer as to why is that it involves a situation most of us will n ...more
Your Republic is Calling You is a fascinating book that almost unintentionally miscategorizes itself. It is commonly referred to as a "spy thriller", but I'm happy to say that it is not really much of one. There are indeed spy elements and a few scenes are genuinely exhilarating, but make no mistake; this isn't a North Korean version of Jason Bourne or James Bond. As entertaining as those franchises are, they've been done and they're predictable. Your Republic Is Calling You is so much more.

this is the kind of book that seems to beg for your typical back-cover blurb words: "highly charged," "meditative," "emotionally taut," etc. (note: all actual descriptions found on the back of the english translation). it's well-paced and sufficiently contemplative enough to fend off hollywood-spy-genre charges, but i think in the end the decision to focus on a single day (punctured with carefully crafted flashbacks loaded with Psychological Significance) was not the best one. it makes for a nar ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Gi-yeong is a typical South Korean family man or so even his wife believes. He’s almost come to believe it himself until one day he gets a mysterious e-mail, recalling him to the home office and his duties as a North Korean spy. The book covers the 24 hours Gi-yeong has been given to report in. As he debates what to do and what to tell his family, he learns that his wife has some secrets of her own.

Like all of the translated fiction I’ve read so far, the writing style of Your Republic is Calling
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Young-ha Kim was born in Hwacheon. He moved from place to place as a child, since his father was in the military. As a child, he suffered from gas poisoning from coal gas and lost memory before ten. He was educated at Yonsei University in Seoul, majoring business administration, but he didn't show much interest in it. Instead he focused on writing stories. Kim, after graduating from Yonsei Univers ...more
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