Un-su Kim

The Plotters

Kim Un-su, the author of The Cabinet, has returned. In 2006, he was unanimously chosen for the 12th Munhakdongne Novel Prize. Literary critic Ryu Bo-seon called him a “monster,” and novelist Jeon Gyeong-rin called him “a new omen.” Hailed for his penetrating insight into the world and his unwavering commitment to love and sincerity toward mankind, Kim Un-su has returned to us with his first novel in four years, The Plotters. Winner of the prestigious Mumhakdongne Prize and Grand Prix de LiteraturePolicière. Sold to Penny Hueston, TEXT Publishers, WEL, L’Auge Noir/France. TEXT publishers, Australia Sept./18, Doubleday US, Random Canada, HarperCollins Italy, Fourth Estate/UK, Europa Verlag/Germany,Dogan /Turkey, pre-empted Harpercollins Italy, Cuon/Japan

Behind assassinations that change the course of history, there are always the plotters. Plotters are highly intelligent masterminds with the powerful watching their backs. Their plots are handed over to the assassins who then carry them out. Since the Japanese Colonization of Korea, Library of Dogs has been the most powerful organization of assassins. The library has a massive collection of 200,000 books, but no one reads there; the place is where plots are hatched, hence the name Library of Dogs. Raesang is an orphan and an adopted son of Old Raccoon, the director of the library. There has never been a second option for Raesang other than being an assassin.

With the advent of Korea’s democratization, Library of Dogs is pushed out to the margins of the plotting world by a new force headed by Hanja, who has succeeded in turning his organization into a corporate security company. A former Library member, Hanja is a foreign-educated businessman. When Raesang changes the assassination plot of a former general, things become tense between Hanja and the Library, and the conflict spirals out of control. Raesang had already lost two people to Hanja, the Trainer, a father figure to Raesang, and Chu, an assassin who was put on the blacklist for letting his target go.

When his best friend Jeong-an is also taken out by Hanja and his henchman, the Barber, Raesang dissociates himself from the Library and becomes a free agent.

Mito, the female protagonist, is a prodigy who has lost her father to a plot. After a long period of preparation, she becomes a plotter’s assistant. When Mito approaches Raesang with her own scheme to overturn the plotting world, all hell breaks loose.

“Jealousy was my reaction to The Cabinet; awe is my reaction to The Plotters. The novel thrills me like a wolf feels when it has smelled blood.” Kwon Yeo-seon, novelist

“Like a veteran killer, he’s terse. Quickly, coolly, and without hesitation, he commands sentences and stories that stab the reader between the ribs. We’ve been waiting for this storyteller and his story.” Park Min-gyu, novelist


Hot Blooded

Europa Verlag/Germany,HarperCollins Italy
The GODFATHER Korean style. Un-su Kim sets his noir masterpiece in the port city of Busan, where he grew up. 
Winner of the 2006 Munhak Dongne Fiction Award for Cabinet Finalist for the 2016 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for Plotters Korean gangster films have long been a popular part of the noir genre, captivating audiences with stories of gangsters who risk everything, live for the moment, and survive on their wits alone. In contrast, Korean literature has mostly turned a blind eye to the world of organized crime, as mainstream literature largely revolves around short fiction and the inner workings of the human mind. But now, Unsu Kim’s Hot Blooded is changing that. Hot Blooded takes place in 1993 in Kuam, a fictional port town in Busan on the southern coast of South Korea. These are not the slick, well-dressed gangsters of the movies who “live and die for style and honor.” As the opening line of the novel makes clear: “The gangsters of Kuam do not wear business suits.” Instead, the gangsters of Kuam scrabble for survival and fight to protect their own food bowl. They’re low and underhanded, they torment the weak and kowtow to the strong, and they rely on betrayal, conspiracy, and trickery to get by. Enter: 40-year-old Heesu, a former boxer who has been in the life for 20 years but still lives month-to-month in a bleak room at the Mallijang Hotel. He has resorted to all sorts of dirty work, including killing people and bribing cops and government employees, but has nothing of his own to show for it. One day, his boss Old Sohn, who has always claim ed that Heesu is like a son to him, decides to leave his entire fortune to his actual son Dodari, and Hong Sache, the blood-thirsty owner of the gambling parlor that Heesu frequents, comes after him to pay back his debt of hundreds of millions of won. So when Yangdong offers Heesu a role in his own promising new gambling parlor, Heesu sees his chance to get out from under Old Sohn’s shadow and marry his first love, Insuk. But money is not so easily earned, and rival business owners start to threaten Heesu and Yangdong for encroaching on their turf. Meanwhile, a larger conspiracy is afoot behind the scenes, as an outside gang makes moves to seize power over Kuam.  


Jab (CRIME SHORT STORY COLLECTION) 

Mumhakdongne/Korea, Serge Safran/France.

The Cabinet
 

The Cabinet is a story about the documents that record these symptomers and the man who manages the documents in Cabinet 13. This seemingly ordinary, old cabinet is filled with stories that are peculiar, strange, eye-pop- ping, disgusting, enraging, and touching. However, the fast changing world is also full of all sorts of unbelievable things. Perhaps symptomers exist not only in the novel but also in the real world. Perhaps some of us do not accept our past and instead, erase our memories and create new ones. Some of us might want to become a wooden doll or a cat rather than live in pain as a human. And if you look around, you can find those who can love no one but themselves or their alter egos.

The narrator is an office worker in his 30s, as ordinary as the cabinet. But he once spent 178 days drinking nothing but cans of beer. And his colleague Son Jeong-eun is a quiet, chubby girl who draws nobody’s attention. But she also has a strange habit of devouring more than 100 pieces of sushi at once. In this novel, the cabinet is a container that holds all the truths of the world. Kim Un-su puts truth into the cabinet “as it is” and keeps it fresh under prop- er temperature and moisture, utilizing his precise prose and rich style. Each episode, preposterous and weird, is intricately interwoven with the narrator’s story are like Lego blocks that form a perfectly assembled structure. Unfolding peculiar and heart-freezing episodes, the author tells us that this is an ‘ordinary’ story and at the same time, the truth “as it is,” as natural as the wind blowing, flowers blossoming and snow falling. The moment you turn the last page of the book, you will come to think about which strange stories are inside your own cabinet. And you will be also curious about what story the author will pull out of his cabinet next time.

Kim Un-su made his debut as a writer in 2002 through the Jinju News Fall Literary Contest with short stories, “Easy Breezy Writing Class” and “Dan Valjean Street” and the 2003 DongA Ilbo Spring Literary Contest with his mid-length novel “Farewell, Friday.” His first full-length novel The Cabinet received the 12th Munhakdongne Novel Award.