I came across Park Ji-ri by chance. Although I had greatly enjoyed her book ‘Union’, I didn’t remember the author’s name, and even when I passed by library shelves filled with her books such as ‘Yangchundan University Expedition Journal’, ‘Manhole’ and ‘Seventeen Seventeen’, I gave them nothing more than a fleeting glance.
However, when I came across an article that mentioned “the last work of an author who died young”, I went out and bought her book, ‘The Root of Dawon Young’s Evil’. After reading this book, which poses fundamental questions about the nature of evil and human existence, I will never forget the name Park Ji-ri.
The editor at the publishing company was not bluffing when he said he read the whole manuscript through without stopping. Although the book is 856 pages long, readers are kept on the edge of their seat throughout due to the well-written story and the trials, tribulations and conflicts between the characters that paint a vivid picture of humanity.
The story is set in a rigid class society ranked from Area 1, where the elite live, to Area 9, which is inhabited by those at the bottom of the social ladder. Prime School is the best school in this society, an exclusive institution with a long history and stellar reputation that only the cream of the elite class can enter. This school is used as a mechanism to emphasize the special nature of the book’s setting.
The three main characters are Rumi, who is trying to uncover the truth about her uncle who was murdered as a child, Dawon Young, a model student at Prime School, and Leo, a stubborn child who is rebellious and sceptical about the school. Together, they work to unravel the sealed secret of Dawon’s grandfather, Runner. As the story of the family’s secret history comes to light, it reveals something about the nature of human guilt.
On the final day of every year, each person must step barefoot onto a special scale that measures the weight of their sin. People with more than three grams of sin is not allowed to enjoy the new year, and a young boy believed that they should be forced to pay the price. His death, and the neverending cycle of crime perpetuated through the blood-stained hands of a man and his son trying to cover up the crimes of his father, demonstrate the potential for evil that lies in every person.
The book asks readers to consider the weight of the primitive evil that lies inside humans and whether we have the right to punish such evil. The point is that we should not ignore how the struggle to protect your vested interests can change the direction of your life.
“Dawon, that’s what people are like, right? They say that Area 1 is a perfect world,
but even in such a perfect place there is darkness, hidden stains that you can’t see. Maybe the places we don’t know are stained even darker.”
Rather than depicting a simple confrontation between good and evil with a happy ending, the author provides a vivid description of the way society operates, engrained prejudices, the difficulty of understanding each other as humans, and the thoughts and feelings of the characters. This is another of the book’s strong points.
I hope that Park Ji-ri’s final book will resonate with young people who are going through the fiery and passionate period in life known as adolescence.
Who Am I? (Jeong Yeong-chun), whether it’s light-reading, a serious book, or something inflammatory or humorous, I have started taking great interest in books of all genres since I was young.
Recommending a book to someone is no easy task, but I have been working as a librarian for 16 years with the belief that the sweet taste of a good book can bring joy to children who only come to the library to play with their phone or read comics and young people who spend most of their time going back and forth between school and private academies.