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Half An Inch Of Water

One Hundred Shadows

By Hwang Jungeun 

24 Apr, 2024



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Hwang Jungeun’s 2010 One Hundred Shadows is a stand-alone modern novel with fantastic elements. The upcoming 2024 edition is of Jung Yewon’s 2016 English translation.

Eungyo likes Mujae. Mujae likes Eungyo. Economic progress does not take into account either Eungyo or Mujae.

Having been bullied in school, Eungyo dropped out. She found work at Mr. Yeo’s repair shop, where she supplied much needed customer service and organizational skills. Dropout Mujae apprenticed at a transformer workshop. Both shops are in the same ramshackle electronics market. Young woman and young man met.

While their mutual attraction is obvious, they lack courting skills. No whirlwind romance for them. The pair do spend their spare time awkwardly enjoying each other’s company. There are occasional inarticulate attempts to move towards more intimacy… which fail. Still, the couple sticks together.

Two looming threats in this setting.

  • Shadows. From time to time, people’s shadows will rise” and manifest as independent entities. The rising often precedes the demise of the person whose shadow this is. Best to keep a close eye on one’s shadow.
  • Gentrification. The market where Eungyo and Mujae work is housed in a dilapidated warehouse on land that is becoming increasingly developable. Forced gentrification looms. A lucky few market shop owners might make a profit but the workers will get nothing. They will lose their jobs and be shunted off to less desirable slums. This would of course affect Eungyo and Mujae.

Hungry shadows are a long-term concern. Forced gentrification is immediate. Our protagonists can do nothing about either.


This novel was inspired in part by the 2009 Yongsan apartment building incident, in which efforts to resist gentrification were violently suppressed at the cost of six lives. With that in mind, as well as knowing that Korean authors often feel no obligation to provide a happy ending1, I expected the plot to spiral towards calamity. If the gentrification plot element wouldn’t end in tragedy, hungry shadows should surely do away with the hapless couple.

I was wrong. One Hundred Shadows is oddly upbeat, at least compared to the book I expected to read.

Eungyo and Mujae’s relationship might seem hopeless, but in the end, it isn’t. To say more would be a spoiler.

Poverty and homelessness might be bearing down on Eungyo and Mujae; perhaps shadow death is around the corner. But right now their lives are OK. That’s probably the happiest ending one could expect.

One Hundred Shadows is available for pre-order here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books). I did not find One Hundred Shadows at Apple Books.

1: Perhaps I am also predisposed to expect calamity by being forced to read CanLit in school. In CanLit, a third-act fatality is de rigueur.