In a drab North Korean city, a seventh daughter is born to a couple longing for a son. Abandoned hours after her birth, she is eventually rescued by her grandmother. The old woman names the child Bari, after a legend telling of a forsaken princess who undertakes a quest for an elixir that will bring peace to the souls of the dead. As a young woman, frail, brave Bari escapes North Korea and takes refuge in China before embarking on a journey across the ocean in the hold of a cargo ship, seeking a better life. She lands in London, where she finds work as a masseuse. Paid to soothe her clients' aching bodies, she discovers that she can ease their more subtle agonies as well, having inherited her beloved grandmother's uncanny ability to read the pain and fears of others. Bari makes her home amongst other immigrants living clandestinely. She finds love in unlikely places, but also suffers a series of misfortunes that push her to the limits of sanity. Yet she has come too far to give in to despair.
He was born in Hsinking (today Changchun), Manchukuo, during the period of Japanese rule. His family returned to Korea after liberation in 1945. He later obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Dongguk University (동국대학교). In 1964 he was jailed for political reasons and met labor activists. Upon his release he worked at a cigarette factory and at several construction sites around the country. In 1966–1969 he was part of Korea’s military corps during the Vietnam War, reluctantly fighting for the American cause that he saw as an attack on a liberation struggle.