OWL Magazine Korea

“Emerald Palace” by Park Hyang

When winter begins, the leaves that have worked hard throughout spring and summer must fall on their own. It’s a sad thing to detach a part of oneself to survive, to extend life. But isn’t it the fate of trees to survive in a climate like ours, where the seasons are distinct… I wonder how the trees feel when they shed their fresh leaves…

This is the thought that crossed my mind after encountering the work “Emerald Palace” by author Park Hyang. If plants in nature had emotions, it would be sad for them to detach a part of themselves, just as it is for parents to abandon their children to survive… I haven’t experienced such a situation firsthand, but reading the book made me wonder how I would feel in such circumstances.

“Characters Bound by Resentment, Stories Unfolding in the Seedy Motel of Society”

The characters in “Emerald Palace” are all bound by resentment. The story revolves around events in a seedy motel, depicting the lives of people living in a motel named Emerald and the events that occur there.

There’s Sang-man, a married man who fled with his lover only to end up guarding the motel counter after losing his family, children, youth, and love. There’s Yeon-hee, who suddenly finds herself staying in the motel with her newborn baby, along with her young lover Kyung-seok. There’s Sun-jung, who sells her body while mentally unstable. Then there’s Su-ho, a mute guest. There’s also the twilight couple who come to the motel to pursue a late love affair, and various other characters and their stories unfold around the motel.

“The Bleak Situations of Characters Facing Hopelessness”

Once, there was hope that the Golden Dome atop the Emerald Motel would make them wealthy, but as time passes, hope becomes increasingly elusive. Despite hoping to create a somewhat hopeful future amidst worsening circumstances, all they receive in return is the harsh reality.

The novel portrays a world of desperation, filled with murder, abortion, escape, and adultery, all set against the backdrop of a motel, which is considered a societal underbelly. Perhaps such people have always been around us, but we simply haven’t noticed them until now.

The portrayal of people struggling to survive in society’s underbelly, the betrayal of those who extended a helping hand, and the appearance of those who must flee while harboring resentment, depict the harsh reality of life. This is reflected in the dialogue of Yeon-hee, a central character.

“I’m scared. It’s not that I’m scared of failing. It’s terrifying to realize there’s nothing to do, to helplessly watch everything crumble. When time passes without my control, it feels like my entire life will disappear somewhere.”

Ironically, while observing the lives of those living in what society considers a seedy motel, I can’t help but think how blessed our current situation is. Thoughts arise about how difficult it must be to once form a complete family. This leads to a reconsideration of the hardships our parents endured.

“Room 317 in the Novel”

Room 317 in the novel is always associated with unfortunate events. It’s where Sang-man’s ex-wife visits, where she stays with Sang-man for three days, and where she attempts suicide. It’s also where Su-ho, the mute, spends time with his lover and later attempts suicide. But why Room 317? The curiosity remains unsatisfied, but one might guess that the number “317” holds some significance to the author.

“How Could the Space of a Motel be Depicted So Realistically?”

Throughout the novel, I couldn’t help but marvel at how the author depicted the space of a motel in such detail and precision. Furthermore, effortlessly portraying the people who would frequent such a place left me in awe.

Writing is not easy. Creating meaningful and good writing is even more difficult. Crafting events that could happen in real life, reflecting an era, is truly challenging.

In this regard, this work more than deserves recognition as a contender for the World Literature Prize.

“Emerald Palace – Winner of the 9th World Literature Prize”