Paek Hyon U’s “Answer the World” was an instant best seller last year.
The novel tells about class-A crimes of Japan which were concealed in the annals of history and the activities of Korean patriots who delayed the Japanese scheme and contributed to hastening Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.
According to the author of the book, immediately after its defeat Japan issued a secret order to completely destroy all evidence related to the atomic bomb test and making it had committed in the Hungnam area of Korea, called the “Noguchi industrial area” at the time, and killed all Koreans who had been involved in it or known anything about it.
Paek is said to have searched the whole country for the descendants of the victims to write the novel.
“He had collected materials and met many people for 30 years to write the novel. He never starts writing if he has any doubt or the materials are not enough,” said Tong Ui Hwi, a woman writer at the Central Committee of the Writers Union of Korea.
Such a writing habit of him surprised his peers when he wrote the novel “People Who Control Fire” decades ago.
At the time he left Pyongyang for Songrim with his wife who was a lecturer at Kim Chaek University of Technology and worked at the then Hwanghae Iron Works for years.
The novel dealt with the smelters who had reconstructed the damaged coke oven to kindle the flames of the building of a new democratic Korea as masters of the country after its liberation from Japanese military rule, leaving an indelible impression on the readers with a fine picture of people’s life at the time.
Later it was adapted as a blockbusker TV series.
To love life and give a lifelike representation of it—this is the principle of production Paek has maintained until today when he is in his old age.
“Only when one loves life passionately, can he or she give a lifelike portrayal of it. I came to know what is life and how to love it during my childhood,” said the old novelist.
He was born in a mountain village in Unsan County of North Phyongan Province in May 1943. After the end of the Korean war he studied at the then Pyongyang Primary School No. 4.
It was the time when postwar rehabilitation was in full swing across the country.
One day there was a Korean language class and his teacher gave a subject “Our classroom” for composition.
Just before the 45-minute class was over, the teacher read a namesake children’s verse after checking the compositions of the class. It was greeted with thunderous applause from all the classmates.
The poem was written by Chairman Kim Jong Il.
Recalling the days with deep emotion, Paek said, “The Chairman expressed the sound of hammering and shovelling what we all had heard as commonplace or sometimes annoying as an ‘exuberant song of gigantic construction’. It was an expression which could be only used by someone who deeply loved life.”