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Your Republic Is Calling You

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3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  913 Ratings  ·  140 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)
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Meaghan
Oct 26, 2010 Meaghan rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
May 02, 2013 Casey (Myshkin) Buell rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
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 ...more
Merrikay
Feb 07, 2014 Merrikay rated it really liked it


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
...more
Chris
Apr 04, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-rok
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 ...more
C. Adam Volle
Nov 03, 2014 C. Adam Volle rated it liked it
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.
Kate
Oct 16, 2016 Kate rated it it was ok
2/5stars

This was a pretty big disappointment. I really enjoyed Young-Ha Kim's previous novel, but this one just fell flat. It dragged on for SO LONG and absolutely nothing happened. I never wanted to pick it up and had to basically force myself to finally just sit down and finish it.

I'll try another one of his novels eventually, but right now I'm a bit discouraged.
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
Deana
May 30, 2016 Deana rated it it was ok
This book ended up being a real disappointment to me. I originally learned of it from a book list -- it was highly recommended and there were a bunch of great reviews here on Goodreads so I added it to my list. This was a few years ago... turns out this book was not easy to find! No libraries in the area had it, Amazon's copies were more than I really wanted to pay. So I added it to my wishlist on Paperback Swap. Four years later, and I received the book!

But the writing (or at least, I should sa
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Aug 31, 2013 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it liked it
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
...more
Syrdarya
Jul 05, 2014 Syrdarya rated it it was amazing
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
John
May 20, 2011 John rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Rowie
Jan 01, 2015 Rowie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
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 ...more
Julia Reed
Jun 07, 2011 Julia Reed rated it liked it
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 ...more
Tien
Oct 03, 2016 Tien rated it liked it
Shelves: korea, fiction
A promising premise: a North Korean spy living in South Korea for over 20 years and has just received an order to return home even though he has been inactive for many years. I actually like his character; he’s become the average “Joe” and this order shocked him into action but he’s a changed man so what’s the right thing for him to do? Unfortunately, there are multiple perspectives and I didn’t actually like any of these other characters especially the wife, ugh! For those who have read it, it’ ...more
Jean
Apr 10, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it
Shelves: korean-lit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cris N.
I've read over half of this novel and simply don't feel like finishing it anymore, so I'm just making my review now. So many reviews are giving it 4 stars, but honestly I couldn't give this as high as 4 stars unless I was reading dry academic stuff the past year, suddenly wanted to experience Korea, and picked this up. The translation is not the best because it's a bit choppy, but that's not the real problem - it's the story structure.

There's an overarching spy story which is exactly what you'd
...more
Meredith
Dec 26, 2014 Meredith rated it really liked it
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
...more
Dan Murphy
Jan 18, 2011 Dan Murphy rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-fiction

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
...more
Jason
Sep 29, 2016 Jason rated it liked it
Pretty cool version of a spy novel, interesting perspective on Korea.
Xian Xian
Dec 26, 2013 Xian Xian rated it really liked it
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
...more
Matthew
Sep 09, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: korea, fiction, 2012
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.

Firs
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Tiffany
May 12, 2013 Tiffany rated it did not like it
Shelves: defeated-me
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
...more
Matt
Apr 08, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this for what feels like forever, because I thought, well, some sort of mystery-espionage story about S Korea has to be interesting. And this doesn't disappoint, in spite of not being much of a thriller.

In fact, the plot is the awakening of a sleeper agent from the North who has been in Seoul for twenty years and built a life, as he tries to decide what to do. We also see his wife and fifteen year old daughter and a couple other characters go about their days, and in the process
...more
Andrés
May 13, 2016 Andrés rated it liked it
A good idea is not always a good book. The novel is about twice the size that it should be. There are moments --flashes-- of novelistic genius interspersed with undisciplined, meandering prose. The slick, 21st-century, gritty-digital moments of poetic flight are too few, too displaced to finally uplift the novel to the promise of its original idea.

This is the story of an undercover North Korean agent, whose principle mission it is to adapt to South Korean life. The novel takes place over 24 hou
...more
Benjamin Harris
Jan 19, 2013 Benjamin Harris rated it it was ok
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, ...more
meeners
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 ...more
Caroline
Oct 05, 2010 Caroline rated it really liked it
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
...more
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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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“Life is a continuous cycle of once-terrifying things becoming normal.” 11 likes
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