Neon light at the 며느라기 pop-up store at db print studio. Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea. Photo © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
From May 2017 to January 2018, South Korean illustrator 수신지 Soo Shin-ji serialized the webtoon “Myeoneuragi” on her min4rin Instagram and Facebook account. It quickly earned her an enormous following. Even months after the webtoon’s completion, hundreds of thousands of people continue to follow both accounts, and over 20,000 copies were sold of the subsequent publication in book form.
In “Myeoneuragi”, Soo accurately depicts Korea’s patriarchal family system and the hardships experienced by women trying to meet the enormous expectations of their in-laws and husbands through everyday scenes in the life of heroine Min Sa-Rin. (The number 4 is pronounced “sa” in Korean, hence the name of her accounts.) The webtoon earned Soo the 2017 Today’s Our Manhwa Award (오늘의 우리만화상), considered one of the top comics awards in Korea.
In a recent interview with Jung Hae-myoung of the Korea Times,* Soo explained, “I liked how comments complemented the story. To those who couldn’t understand what the problem was, some people stood up to explain what I really wanted to convey in specific episodes.” Some readers blamed her for making them uncomfortable about ancestral rites, but to Soo, the saddest comment was by a reader who wrote, “I know what the problem is but I cannot change it. I just hope my daughter doesn’t live like that.”
“I do not think the problems change naturally as time passes. It is important what children see from their parents. If the older generation doesn’t change, the current generation won’t.” Although she had started somewhat light-heartedly at first, Soo soon found herself looking ever-deeper into the issue and the experience made her develop a greater interest in other human rights issues, as well.
In early 2019, Soo will start posting the series in English on Instagram and Facebook to continue the conversation with non-Korean readers. “I think this issue does not only linger in Korea. I’m curious what people in other countries will say after reading my work.”
If you’ll read the English version of “Myeoneuragi,” you won’t just learn more about Korean society, you’ll also find out about the significance of the melon.
Update: the English version of Myeoneuragi” has now begun!
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