Friday, July 16, 2010

Wangshimni Orchard?

Wangsimni Station
(Image from Wikipedia)

As I stood on a subway platform at Wangsimni Station yesterday afternoon having to wait for the next homebound train because a closed-off escalator being cleaned had forced me to detour and just miss the previous one, I occupied my involuntary delay by reading more from David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, and happened upon this passage:
Wangshimni Orchard: what an encyclopedia of consumables! For hours, I pointed at items for Hae-Joo to identify: bronze masks, instant bird's nest soup, fabricant toys, golden suzukis, air filters, acidproof skeins, oraculars of the Beloved Chairman and statuettes of the Immanent Chairman, jewel-powder perfumes, pearlsilk scarves, realtime maps, deadland artifacts, programmable violins. A pharmacy: packets of pills for cancer, aids, alzheimers, lead-tox; for corpulence, anorexia, baldness, hairiness, exuberance, glumness, dewdrugs, drugs for overindulgence in dewdrugs. Hour twenty-one chimed, yet we had not advanced beyond a single precinct. How the consumers seethed to buy, buy, buy! Purebloods, it seemed, were a sponge of demand that sucked goods and services from every vendor, dinery, bar, shop, and nook. (Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, Random House, 2004, page 227)
I did a double-take, of course, briefly wondered if an orchard flourished nearby, or at least a market offering everything under the lunar-sponsored heavens, but quickly recalled that I was reading not some oddball Lonely Planet Travel Guide for Seoul but David Mitchell's dystopian futuristic story, "An Orison of Sonmi-451," and concluded that I'd just experienced a mild instance of Jungian synchronicity.

At any rate, in this passage, Sonmi (a clone, aka "fabricant") is being shown about town (obviously Seoul) by Hae-Joo Im (seemingly, a graduate student, but we'll see). Note the allusions to Kim Jong-il (Beloved Chairman) and his father Kim Il-sung (Immanent Chairman), implying -- as mentioned in yesterday's entry -- that the North and South of Korea may have unified without rejecting the ruling Kim Family, but also through accepting capitalism, albeit a corporatist sort of state capitalism dependent upon incessant, consumerist-induced purchasing to keep the economy running.

I've finished half of the story and will get to the latter half after an intervening chapter set in Hawaii, but in the even more distant future.

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