Among the many lessons to be learned from acclaimed novelist Gong Ji- Young’s Our Happy Time, a book that has sold over a million copies in South Korea and was adapted into the 2006 Korean film Maundy Thursday, one is that money can’t buy you happiness. At least that’s the case for protagonist Yujeong, whose abundance of wealth, beauty and fame does little to prevent yet another suicide attempt, landing her in the hospital.
Yujeong begins the story by remembering her deceased love, Yunsu. Gong wastes no time in telling us the reason behind his death: Yunsu was a convicted murderer on death row. This unexpected relationship begins when the suicidal Yujeong joins her aunt on a charitable visit to inmates on death row. There, she meets Yunsu and the two begin having weekly meetings. Needless to say, these meetings eventually progress into a bond much deeper than expected.
We soon discover that there is more to Yunsu than his horrifying crime. The story alternates between Yujeong’s perspective and Yunsu’s prison diary. Through the diary, we learn about Yunsu’s difficult childhood, broken family and ultimately, the reason for his actions. We begin to sympathize with him and see him as a whole person rather than a criminal. In this way, we parallel Yujeong’s journey as she slowly falls in love with Yunsu. Although Yujeong and Yunsu’s time together is tragically brief, they are both left with something unforgettable: They learn to love themselves and life once more.
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This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here.