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METRO Book Of The Day : Marilyn and Me


A star’s war: Retracing Marilyn in Korea

War story: Ji-min Lee

■ Ji-min Lee tells Claire Allfree why she’s based her new novel during Monroe’s brief visit to the troops

Your new novel, Marilyn And Me, tells the story of the time when Marilyn Monroe visited Seoul to perform for US troops stationed there after the Korean War…

Immediately after the Korean War, the country was exploding with energy and new life to overcome the wounds of war. This era saw a baby boom and women were in the middle of that vitality. I wanted to explore these women’s efforts.

How much research did you have to do?

I read countless history books, though it was surprisingly hard to find much about Marilyn Monroe’s visit to Korea. But that actually turned out to be more helpful in writing this book. With only a few images of her in Korea as a reference, I felt as if I were shooting a movie with her as the lead.

You’ve told it through the voice of Kim Ae-sun, Monroe’s translator.

Kim Ae-sun isn’t perfect. Rather she’s passionate and makes mistakes. She’s gone through not only the Korean War but also the war within herself. She is an interpreter but remains so traumatised that she refuses to communicate with anyone. However, she ends up communicating with Marilyn through emotions in their brief time together.

What legacy did the war leave?

The generation that has lived through war is dying and they want the rest of us to remember their sacrifice. But the younger generation doesn’t want to focus only on the ideological problems that ruled modern Korean history.

Marilyn And Me by Ji-min Lee (Fourth Estate) is out now