- PUBLISHED: September 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Korea, Literature, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 224 Pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in
- ISBN: 9780295747668
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
During the Pacific War, more than 200,000 Korean girls were forced into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers. They lived in horrific conditions in “comfort stations” across Japanese-occupied territories. Barely 10 percent survived to return to Korea, where they lived as social outcasts. Since then, self-declared comfort women have come forward only to have their testimonies and calls for compensation largely denied by the Japanese government.
Kim Soom tells the story of a woman who was kidnapped at the age of thirteen while gathering snails for her starving family. The horrors of her life as a sex slave follow her back to Korea, where she lives in isolation gripped by the fear that her past will be discovered. Yet, when she learns that the last known comfort woman is dying, she decides to tell her there will still be “one left” after her passing, and embarks on a painful journey.
One Left is a provocative, extensively researched novel constructed from the testimonies of dozens of comfort women. The first Korean novel devoted to this subject, it rekindled conversations about comfort women as well as the violent legacies of Japanese colonialism. This first-ever English translation recovers the overlooked and disavowed stories of Korea’s most marginalized women.
Authors & Contributors
Kim Soom is the prize-winning author of six story collections and nine novels. One Left is her first novel translated into English. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton have received awards and critical acclaim for their translations of Korean fiction, including Words of Farewell: Stories by Korean Women Writers.
Through this story the author restores a past that has been erased by history and emphasizes the historical memory of what must never be repeated or forgotten.- Daejon Ilbo
The process of directly confronting the comfort women’s hellish experiences is truly painful. However, because the novel is not a product of the author’s imagination but in fact based on historical reality, we cannot turn our heads away. No, we must not.- Donga Ilbo
[An] exceptional novel… Soom captures the agonizing legacy of a dark chapter from the recent past.- Booklist
Though it is fiction, Kim Soom’s novel is steeped in fact. One Left dignifies its subjects as an authentic memorial that makes an indelible mark on history.- Foreword Reviews
It may seem cliché to state that a novel is necessary. But this one really is.- Asian Review of Books
This is a painful, powerful literary indictment of the systemic subjugation of Korean comfortwomen, whose own #MeToo movement has yet to be fully reckoned with, decades after the fact.- Bookmonger
This Korean novel dramatizes, with indelible force, the utter dehumanization of women confined to authoritarian patriarchal imprisonment.- The Arts Fuse
[A] landmark — the first novel dedicated to depicting comfort women, a topic that invokes as much weariness as it does outrage among today’s public. Though a work of fiction, Kim Soom’s story is based on exhaustive research and testimonies given by actual comfort women...By rendering this topic in the form of a novel, Kim injects a new sense of emotional urgency in recognizing these very real and hauntingly painful experiences.- International Examiner
[S]ynthesizes acute personal memories with painful history, straddling the line between fact and fiction. The result is a gut-wrenching narrative.- Korean Herald
All credit then, to author, translators and publisher for bringing this important book to us.- London Korean Links
In their even, experienced hands the translation avoids any temptation toward melodrama or obscenity, especially tricky and crucial given the raw, violent subject at hand... For English readers, one must note commensurate, masterful sensitivity to every word and nuance in the translation.- Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature (TSWL)
[T]he first Korean novel devoted exclusively to the subject of the “comfort women.” In direct opposition to the Japanese government’s efforts to suppress the memory of its sex slave camps, Kim chooses to deploy language like a scalpel, crafting her narrative from the testimonies of dozens of Korean survivors... Granting dignity to the few living survivors is a matter of urgency, as highlighted by the fictional construct of One Left.- Ploughshares
In this a telling of a tragic history from the perspective of one elderly former sex slave who sees herself as “the last one,” Kim revitalizes energy for this irreconcilable injustice in a new generation of readers.- Korean Quarterly
Reading One Left is a journey marked by grief, outrage, and the power of a voice carefully kept silent. The use of quotations from survivors—gleaned from oral histories, media reports, and all manner of sources—is at once surreal and solid. It grounds readers in documented history, while pulling them into the imagined solitary musings of a fictional survivor. This is a must read.- Ji-Yeon Yuh, author of Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America