Sueyeun Juliette Lee


[I've been working—very slowly!—for the past several years on a story/novella that extends my interest in exploring Kim Jong-Il as a personage, the projection of an identity. In previous work, I was happy to explore this textually, by examining Kim as a sign set loose in the world. Lately, I've been more inclined to see how narrative structures can capture the emptiness of experience and of personality. I think that there's more room for humor in narrative structures, too, which I wanted to take advantage of.

The project's working title is the rather cryptic RACFSV, a film project that takes over KJI's life. It stands for "revolutionary ardor and creativity with a faith in sure victory," which is his motto.

These excerpts are from the first chapter, titled "The Man and His City." In this world, like YHWH, his name is never allowed to be written in full.]

  • Therefore, he regards it as an infinitely valuable life and greatest pleasure to love the people with boundless warmth and serve them with devotion. Today all the officials of this country regard the slogan “We Serve the People!” as their rule to action. The slogan was put forward by the leader according to his noble view of the people and life. His original political mode of Songun is a product of his warmest love for the people. Because he could not permit the people to be enslaved by the imperialists, he took the thorny path of the Songun politics. Sometimes he skipped meals and took catnaps in his field car while making long continual inspection trips to the Korean People’s Army units along rugged paths. Under his indefatigable revolutionary leadership of Songun the sovereignty of North Korea and its socialism have been defended. All the Koreans say that without him, there would be no country and socialism which is their life and soul. They reverentially call him “our General” and “father General” and remain true to his politics.


KJI flicked his digital video recorder on. The red light stared with a comforting familiarity, almost hypnotic in his dusky, shade-drawn den. He was in his jammies. He took a long breath, meditatively chewed his lip. He contemplated a patient, modulated delivery, visualizing the humanity of his furrowed brow, his boyish jowls.

"It is with absolute courage we must proceed,” he murmured, pausing to strike a match. “The world will not understand what it is about to receive. Our most endearing and potent abilities, our striking capacities, our wise and generous tendencies...”

He could hear the whistles and calls from the main square, preparations for mass demonstrations of support. The phantom jugglers in their plumed jumpsuits, the ghostly cavalcade of old war machines wrapped in neon lights, cardboard martinets directing lines of gauzy, double jointed, holographic teens.

A blue flare launched high up into the sky. Through the film of his drapes, he watched it ascend then explode. A branching tumult of fibrous, delicate petals, glorious swans, teeming plasticene children holding out their hands now reflected in the oily sheen of his prescription, photochromic glasses.

Later, he rubbed his cold feet together beneath the sheets.


KJI marched stolidly back and forth, hands crossed behind his back as though in deep contemplation. He glanced surreptitiously at the mirror at the far end of the room, trying to catch himself as a distant viewer might. He furrowed his brow a bit more, tucked his chin in closer to his chest.

Making white clouds of upset indolence, the miniature space between perception and interiority started to hum a little song. Hold me closer tiny dancer / Count the headlights on the highway... He loved that song, Elton’s noble plinking of the keys.

His duplicates stood attentively, patiently—a little fearfully—in a row, their arms firmly pressed to their softly rounded sides. He practiced his stride a few more times before them. There were many decisions to make today, as there were every day. Even heaven allows the sun some repose, but there was none for him, bright star of his nation. He sighed. Pausing, he examined a copy of his face closely. The complexion was blotchier than it should be. It would need a chemical peel, having developed an unsightly age spot alongside the nose.

The vidscreen lit up on his desk. With a firm step, he tread the hologram pedal on the floor, dispelling his duplicates’ lineup. “Number Four. Everyone else is fine,” he growled hurriedly as he settled himself into his chair. “Yes, Generalissimo,” a tinny voice replied from the ambient speakers in the walls.

The headlines on his projector troubled him greatly. Apparently, Jennifer Aniston was seen publicly with that silly Scotsman again. Sex and the City 12 still wasn’t greenlighted, and it was just announced that Sony’s Cannes-a-Palooza was taking place in Norway this year, not Tahiti as he had hoped. It would be harder for his agents to record and stream the screenings.

He sat back in his seat, struck a match, listened to the crisp sound of the cigarette catch flame. His eyes ached. Sucking down the sharp smoke, he closed his eyes, and let his head sink backwards into the leather’s plush embrace.

Lay me down in sheets of linen / you had a busy day today.

Sueyeun Juliette Lee currently lives in Pittsburgh, where she edits Corollary Press (, a chapbook series devoted to multi-ethnic innovative writing. Her books include That Gorgeous Feeling (Coconut Press) and Underground National (Factory School). She writes reviews for the Constant Critic and is a contributing editor to EOAGH.

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