The Prisoner

Hwang Sok-yong
The Prisoner

A breathtaking record of Hwang Sok-yong’s experiences in the prison of time, the prison of language, and the prison of a divided country still stuck in the Cold War. Hwang Sok-yong bears impassioned witness to the turbulence of modern history and the fight for freedom from oppression. Born in Manchuria, Hwang spent his early childhood in Pyongyang until the outbreak of the Korean War, when his family fled to the south with Hwang’s mother carrying him on her back. The death of a friend during the April Revolution of 1960 saw the young Hwang lose direction before joining the Marines and being shipped off to the Vietnam War. Upon returning to South Korea, he took up writing and became involved in activism against Park Chung-hee’s military regime. When the next military junta tried to cover up the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, he fought for the truth to be known. Then, in 1989, he broke the divided peninsula’s greatest taboo by visiting North Korea, an act that shook the establishment. Four years of exile followed, after which Hwang reentered South Korea but was promptly imprisoned and forced to serve a five-year sentence. A life on the frontlines of democracy, and a journey of breaking down barriers: from refugee to visitor, from exile to incarceration.

Published in 2 volumes in Korean (500 pages approx. in translation)


  • Munhakdongne Korea
  • Akashi Japan
  • Editions Philippe Picquier France
  • Verso UK & US

Material: Korean edition, French sample, English sample