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Your Republic Is Calling You

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,407 ratings  ·  190 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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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  1,407 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Admittedly, I must be somewhere among the world's least fans of Korean & Japanese fiction: they tend to be all over the place and mostly make me feel like I'm on the verge of developing a major case of Tourette's (which should be impossible). This one's managed to entangle me into its captive readership. Somehow.

Love the cover. It's so injumane, it could be about robots.

Their grief had to be easier to witness than their disappointment. She tried to strangle herself with her hands. (c)
He will
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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YOUR REPUBLIC IS CALLING YOU grabbed me with its unique premise. It's about a man named Ki-yong (weirdly called "Gi-yeong" in the book's blurb-- you'd think the transliteration would be consistent across the same edition, but no?) who is a securely middle class Korean man who works in the film industry. He's also a North Korean sleeper agent. One day, he receives a coded message informing him that his duties are over and that he must ret
Oct 26, 2010 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
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Apr 27, 2013 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 c ...more
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 12, 2010 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 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
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, gifted, read-owned
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
Feb 06, 2014 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?  
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
2017 Reading Challenge category: 8. A book written by a person of color

Wow, this really made me want to read more South Korean authors. I normally don't really love thrillers, but there were just so many different fascinating aspects of this book that it hooked me really quickly: the fact that it only spans a day, the suppositions into what a North Korean spy would have to learn about before coming to the South, some very interesting conversations that illuminated some cultural ideas, and of cou
Charlotte H
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is a real diamond in the rough for someone like me who loves books about Korea, spy novels, AND a North/South Korea topic. Yet, it's also not what you'd expect at all if you'd read that genre. Like The Americans (late FX show), Your Republic Is Calling You is more about identity and marriage than it is about spying or political ideology.

Kim is a master of an unsettling mood and writing about people who are unsettled or alienated. This ultimately may be more of a 3.5 than a 4 because w
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jul 18, 2013 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
Jun 10, 2014 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
May 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: asia, dnf
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
Jun 07, 2011 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 im ...more
Irad Narukaya
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
a surprising book. A literally one-day novel told in the perspective of different characters, and how their personalities, past as well as the society they lived in relate to the present conditions. The early parts are a little bit draggy, and it might be slightly confusing to those without a basic knowledge of the Korean war and the South Korean democratization movement, but the touches of philosophy and a spy story made up for it.

favourite quote: "Life is a continuous cycle of once terrifying
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok

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.
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.
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
definitely a spy novel I would actually recommend. I think the comparison to murikami is fair? I've only read two murikami before however. ...more
James F
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
At first sight, this seems to be a spy thriller, about a long dormant North Korean "mole" in Seoul who suddenly receives an unexpected order. It doesn't really fit the usual pattern of that genre, however; the emphasis is far less on the pursuit and far more on the characters and relationships of the spy and his wife and daughter. The character frequently contrasts his reality to spy films and novels. Like the spy himself, the book is in disguise. (In other words, postmodernist fiction.) The plo ...more
May 12, 2013 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
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's probably not a good sign when I start a review with, " I didn't hate the book." This book had a good premise--a 24 hour period in the life of a North Korean spy who's been called back to his homeland--but the story itself was all over the place. I think this excerpt exemplifies the whole book:

Ki-yong, after listening to Soji's idea for her novel, commented, "That reminds me of one of Sam Peckinpah's films. What's it called? O, Straw Dogs. Dustin Hoffman is a mathematician who escapes the v
John Collings
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Part of me really liked this book. Part of me was really disappointed with this book. The funny thing about it is that the part of the book that should have been the more entertaining part was the part that bored me the most. In this spy thriller set in Seoul, South Korea, a North Korean forgotten spy is sent Order Number 4 and is asked to return back to the motherland. The opens up a whole range of emotions for the spy who has made a life for himself in this bustling capitalistic city. He now h ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Many books flow by in the course of my day. This one caught my eye; I opened it to the middle and read a few pages, then a few pages more, then decided to read it. I had doubts when I read the beginning, but I quickly saw what a gem this was: the thriller aspect is good and the window into Korean society and culture, both south and north, is worthwhile, but this is not what the novel is about: it's about people trying to figure out how to live. The characters are so good and treated with such lo ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: pleasure-read
A fast-paced, tightly written, semi-suspenseful novel--all the action takes place in a day. Kim is the first Korean writer I've ever read and so it was a lesson in learning about the inherent tensions resulting from the War and the subsequent division of the country. What I liked most is how he packed a lot of background information into the varying characters' lives without it seeming tedious and/or gratuitous. It made not just the main character Ki-yong complicated but some of the minor charac ...more
Matt Miles
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel succeeds in avoiding all the tropes I expected from a story about divisions and instead focuses on the lives and choices of some of the people it affects. It has some good old fashioned "spy moments", such as chase scenes, etc, but the characters are believable even when the story seems surreal, and the reader takes the journey with them through one decisive day. This is graphic in places so it's not for sensitive readers, but if that doesn't bother you it's a good thoughtful read. Ha ...more
Amy Warrick
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
You know, the premise of the book is fascinating - North Korean spy, living in South Korea for years, is given the order to drop everything and come home. The book covers the next 24 hours. Once again I wonder, in the face of rave reviews on, if it's me, or if it's the book....but this one didn't deliver. Nobody is likable, so I lost interest in Ki-yong's dilemma. I lost interest in his wife's dilemma. I lost interest in his teen daughter. Characters seem to be presented as case studi ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this book I had a very comfortable feeling, that the story teller has first-hand experience in areas he is presenting to readers.
While the main story is very original and masterfully told and I fully agree with accolades in other reviews. Beside it I was very impressed by the fair description of life in South and North Korea. The point is, that in early stages of the action, South Korea was plagued by corruption on all levels of public life and some young activists quite seriously consid
Marsha Nelson
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a man who is a spy for North Korea but forgotten after being placed in South Korea. During the next 20 years he is living in South Korea in limbo. Suddenly, his handlers seem to have reappeared and want him to return to the North. The entire book takes place in one day. It is not only his story but also that of his wife and daughter and shows how decisions made in one day can affect your entire life. The only problem I encountered was keeping the names straight as they were ...more
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The World's Liter...: Your Republic Is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim 1 15 May 20, 2019 05:14PM  

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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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