Posts by: sasang

Why I Chose My Pen Name.

By on February 20, 2018

Why I Chose My Pen Name.

So, I did a lot of thinking and researching about pen names in general. Pen names are chosen for various different reasons. For instance, some authors want to write in several genres, or an author’s name is not fitting for their genre. For example, Johnny flowers is not going to be a good horror genre name. Moreover, Archibald Stonemason is not going to be a good romantic genre name. Also, some people have the same name as other authors. If your last name is King, you should probably use a pen name. Stephen King wrote once as Richard Bachman because he wrote so many novels that year that his publisher thought nobody was going to buy anything more from him. J.K. Rowling was forced to take that name because her publisher thought kids wouldn’t buy fantasy books from women (sexist much?), I guess you can see why I self-publish. Anyhow, some people want to hide their identity to protect their day job or family from knowing about what they are writing, often an erotic novel or something controversial. Likewise, some people just want to be anonymous, so to speak, if they’re writing something controversial. Some people just like the style of using a pen name too. So, why did I choose a pen name and why did I pick this specific name? firstly, I decided to choose a pen name because it’s just damn cool. Well, to be honest I have a very boring, extremely mundane name, as well, and I’m a nobody, so who cares about my name. I mean historically lots of authors used to pick interesting pen names; it ‘seems’ like in the modern era, it’s less common though. Secondly, I do want some anonymity in today’s crazy connected day and age. I doubt 99% of you could track me down to some random place in South Korea regardless, it makes me sleep better at night knowing there are not random people trying to find information about me, or stalk me on the internet. Actually, my name is so common, even if you had it, you would literally get thousands, if not tens of thousands of people with my name coming up on social media. I once typed it into Facebook for fun, and it had thousands of hits from what I remember. Furthermore, I do enjoy my privacy, I think being a celebrity would be the worst thing in the world. Not being able to go anywhere without being harassed by random people is like being in jail in its own way. Thirdly, as an author I do want the ability to write about controversial political or societal issues. To be able to express myself and views freely. Today’s political climate has gotten far too out of hand with death threats and online harassment. Even the US government is trying to get personal data on protestors from a popular anti-government website, currently as I write this.

Why Dongbaek Sasang?

Well, to start off, its Korean, if you didn’t know it’s spelled like this 동백 사상. I’m not Korean or ethnically Korean. I’m a Canadian living in South Korea, and we will leave it at that for now. Most Korean people when they read the pen name are very confused and weirded out by it because it basically makes no sense if you’re a native Korean speaker from the area. Dongbaek is the Korean word for the Camilla Flower and Sasang-gu is a socio-economically struggling district in Busan. When I read about pen names, some articles said choose a name that means something to you, so I chose this name because it actually does mean quite a lot to me. Dongbaek Island is a place in Busan I went on a date with my wife when we first started dating. It’s a very beautiful coastal trail with annually blooming Camillia flowers. Also, an APEC summit was held there as well. All the major world leaders at the time went there at one time. As well, part of the Busan city anthem is translated from Korean as, “A place where Camilla flowers bloom.” And I heard a professional choir sing it live on New Year’s Eve one time with my wife in Nampo, so it means a lot to me in terms of Busan being my new home. Similarly, my best friend and I had some of the best summer time adventures at the Camilla forest in Geoje Island walking along the boulders on the beach looking at islands out at sea while free style rocking climbing up into the Camilla Forest and finding an abandoned military base and old Korean people fishing on the cliffs while we drank Makoli. So, that is where the Camilla part holds meaning in my life.

The other part is Sasang. Sasang is a poor working-class area of Busan that I first landed in back in 2013. My first job was teaching English at a government subsidized community center there. It was a tough job to say the least because the students from that socio-economic level tend to have behavioral problems as well as come from broken homes. I first hand saw the effects of poverty and forced unemployment.  It’s a place I draw inspiration from to this day when I think of class struggles, poverty, and inequality in the world. You will see these themes in my works to come. Another inspiration from Sasang was the local politician in my district at the time. He is the current president now. He’s a man that defied the odds to become president after a crushing defeat, a few years back. He’s a man who dreamt big and challenges the deeply conservative entrenched political system in Korea. A true reformer, voted in by people who were terrified of him a few years ago, to take a sledge hammer to political and corporate corruption, and Korean society as a whole. I witnessed and documented the movement to impeach Park Gyeun-Hye and found it to be a once in a life time impossible outcome, that I will never forget. It truly was an inspiring and hopeful experience. It really gave me hope for humanity and inspired me to try to achieve any goal I want. The fact the Korean population was able to peaceful rise up against an authoritarian leader like her, and toppler her peacefully was an incredible feat. To sum it up, the President at the time Park Gyeun-Hye was ruling over a seemingly untouchable political dynasty. Her father was a controversial authoritarian dictator that ruled the country with an iron fist but, achieved boundless economic development until his assassination in 1979. Her father is revered by the older generation that saw South Korea go from literally one of the poorest countries in the world to, literally one of the richest in the world. And these elderly people went out and voted, unconditionally, every time, while younger voter were apathetic and didn’t give a damn. So, you can see her party and mandate being almost politically untouchable by any opposition. Her party was sweeping local and national elections handily. After about 4 years into her 5-year mandate, shit hit the fan so to speak. The Korean economy was in shambles and her administration was flowing with corruption, not even seen to the level for a country, where not getting arrested as president raises the bar. She also used the national police agency to arrest her political opposition. I remember the day reading in the news the speaker of the house, chairwoman of the opposition and senior opposition politicians were arrested on bullshit charges or “illegal campaigning” because they said untrue things during the national assembly election. That day still brings a shiver down my spine. The cherry on the cake was her letting her best friend have an unofficial high-level position in the presidential administration which she and the president took tens of millions of dollars in bribes from head of Korean business conglomerates. This all came to light when her friend threw out a computer with confidential documents on it and a reporter found it. This lead to the unraveling of her administration and multiple high-level arrests. Koreans took to the streets in protest for 4 months straight often drawing over a million protesters at a time throughout the country. She was impeached by well over 2/3rds of National Assembly, and it was unanimously confirmed by the supreme court. A snap election was held and Moon dominated. Moon was elected to reform the country and implement a progressive agenda while the former president is sitting in jail. From his humble beginnings in Sasang to the Blue house, was really an amazing thing to witness. He led a seemingly impossible movement to topple an increasingly authoritarian leader. I would also like to note I’m not blindly allegiant to anyone. I will judge President Moon fairly by what he accomplishes. I still don’t really trust any politician.

Lastly, Dongbeak Sasang is a symbol of hope. A metaphor for the flower in the Sasang. The beautiful flower that bloomed in such a troubled place. The hope that maybe one day we can have a better life for ourselves, within such an oppressing system we opposed on ourselves.



The Catcher in the Rye

By on February 20, 2018

The Catcher in the Rye

Book Review #1

Narrative: 1st Person

Author: J.D. Salinger

Published: 1951


So I finally got around to reading Catcher in the Rye 66 years after it was released. That’s right, it just turned 66 years old as of last month (07/2017). After reading some other reviews on this book online, I can tell you it’s highly polarizing. You either love it or hate it. Even between my wife and I. My wife loved it, I thought it was good, but had some serious issues in my humblest of opinions. Let’s start off by talking about our little ‘sore’ ‘yellow’ ‘rake’ Holden Caulfield. Since this book was written in 1951, it gives an extraordinary view into what life was like in the USA back then, as well as, how people talked. Specifically, all the outdated slang they used. It was really like reading a living history book from society shortly after WW2. You really felt like you were in the era back then, when you read it. I guess that’s partially why it’s an American classic and read in most schools there. I’m Canadian, so this was the first time I read it. ‘Sore’ was a slang used when Holden described anyone who got angry, similar to ‘pissed off’. ‘Yellow’ was a word to describe someone who’s non-violent or kind of a coward. He often described himself this way because he refused to fight people. A ‘Rake’ was somebody who was good with woman. I suppose they raked in woman. ‘Goose-flesh’ was goosebumps, and of course this book broke the world record for the word ‘Corny’ and ‘phony’ being used in a book. ‘Corny’ is something that is not cool, and ‘phony’ is somebody whose fake. The book follows the life of a 16 year old boy who just got kicked out of his 3rd or 4th boarding school and his rich parents in New York City are going to kill him. It chronicles a few days of him screwing around in New York City before his goes home for the Christmas break. He didn’t want to go home early because his parents would find out he got expelled again. The boy is, by all accounts, a delinquent youth chain-smoker, heavy drinker who is seriously depressed and dealing with those terrible teenage years we can all relate to. The narrative of the book is so compelling to read because it hits the nail on the head to what it’s like to be a depressed, lost and lonely teen that thinks the worlds just a meaningless load of shit. I think a lot of people can related to this because we were all teens at some point and more or less dealt with the same issues, often spanning into our adulthoods. The major themes of the book are rebelling, depression, loneliness, teenage issues, as well as, alcoholism and existentialism. If you can relate to any of these themes your going to love the book. But if you had a perfect childhood or simple can’t sympathize or emphasise with him, Holden is going to come off as an entitled, antisocial loser that needs to get his life together. It going to make you sore.

The BAD stuff

So, this is a little nitpicking, but I thought it was weird that the first few words of chapters were capitalized. Ex. This is the introduction of the book: “IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…” It just seemed like the first few words were being screamed at you or something. I don’t know if that was normal back then though. This leads to my second point. The intro was far from eye-catching or pulling the reader in. Almost like in 4th grade when the teacher tells you not to start your speech with ‘Today I’m going to talk about the Bermuda Triangle for my speech.’  Also, the first approximately 25% of the book is just him shooting the shit with his soon to be never seen again roommates and talking to a teacher. It was boring and dull. The book was generally, uneventful. The story followed him wandering around New York City getting drunk and going to bars and clubs and contacting old friends and getting into trouble. There was no distinct climax, just a few meaningful scenes towards the end. The ending was well… there was no ending. He just finished telling his story, of that time, and kind of alluded to going back to school soon. So, I thought WTF, this is the biggest open ending in the history of literature. You get no closure in the ending and it answers absolutely zero questions about what happened to Holden.


The GOOD stuff

The historical context was absolutely fascinating. You felt like you were alive and walking the streets of New York City almost 70 years ago. The slang and voice of the narrative were unforgettable. The slang he used made you feel like you’re listening to somebody from a century ago. It was amazing to see these words and expressions used in that era, all in perfect historical context because it was written back then. The narrator was unique and had a distinct narrative voice. He was this jaded smart-ass teen that insulted everyone and everything, so it was entertaining having him rip on everyone in 50’s slang. The story was very believable because it was mundane and it was utterly realistic. You felt like you were reading the real journal of a teenage boy, and watching all the weird shit this kid was doing and getting away with. You do feel for the kid; he’s got lots of issues and is pretty screwed up in the head for multiple reasons. He feels like everyone’s fake and life’s meaningless. He’s only 16 so he perfectly embodies the struggles people deal with when turning from a kid into an adult.

In Conclusion

This books biggest weakness, is its biggest strength. It was a bit mundane, but that’s what made it so realistic and believable. You didn’t feel like you were reading this phony story, where crazy stuff was happening. It seemed real and yet did have some rather seedy, shocking moments that keeps you interested and engaged. After I slugged through the first part of the story, the rest of the book read itself effortlessly. All in all, I’m going to recommend reading this book. If you can relate or empathize with the themes mentioned earlier; you’re going to fall in love with this book. If you get bored easily or can’t relate to these teenage struggles, you’re not going to like this book and get frustrated with the main character. Lastly, the name of the books refers to him saying every time he hears this poem ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ He thinks about a bunch of kids running around in a rye field. and he’s standing on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the kids from running off the cliff by mistake. This is allegory for loss of innocent of children getting disturbed or deranged and their life going off a cliff. It sums up the books quite well.




Fight Club

By on February 20, 2018

Fight Club

Book Review #2

Narrative: 1st Person

Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Published: August 17, 1996

Movie Release: 1999

Spoilers Below


“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

-Fight Club



I am Joe’s gleaming book review. I finally got around to reading Fight Club after 15 years of putting it on my to do list. I first watched the movie Fight Club in the early 2000’s at my middle school buddie’s house. Soon after, I saw a copy of Fight Club laying around his house too. I remember being astonished that Fight Club was actually, a book first, not a movie. And here I am, almost two decades later finally reading the book. The book and movie are both well rated and reviewed. I also agree with this, which I will get into. This is one of my all time favorite books and movies. Even as a stupid middle school student, I could see the deep philosophical meaning depicted in Fight Club. Reading the book as an adult was even more amazing being able to appreciate this cult classic, by an author I still can’t pronounce his last name. This book deals with themes of atheism, mental illness, existentialism, cults, anti-capitalism and general distain for society. The story is narrated by an unnamed protagonist who is suffering from severe insomnia. On the surface, his life is perfect he has a well paying corporate job that allows him to live a nice lifestyle. He has a nice condominium that is furnished to his exact style from Ikea. To deal with his insomnia he goes to AA style meetings for sufferers of various diseases and disorders. There he can pretend to be one of the people suffering, and he find solace in this, but more importantly sleeps. He soon finds another woman going to all the same meeting, doing the same thing as him. Her name is Marla Singer, and he can’t enjoy the therapeutic effects knowing another faker is there. They agree to split different times to avoid each other. The narrator soon finds out that his apartment has exploded while on a business trip. He calls his friend Tyler Durden, and they meet at a bar. Tyler insists on having him punch him in the face, if he wants to stay at his house. They end up play fighting. The thrill and release of fighting each other leads them to set up ‘Fight Club’ in the bar of a basement. Every week, more and more people come to Fight Club. The narrator ends up moving into Tyler’s huge, abandoned old house in an industrial area, where they are the only house for miles. Marla Singer calls the house saying she is going to commit suicide, so Tyler goes to her hotel and, they hook up and become an item. Fight Club becomes a huge success and people all around America are setting up their own little chapters of Fight Club. Tyler Durden becomes a living legend for being the founder of the organization. People start recognizing him everywhere. Tyler and the narrator end up black mailing their bosses into paying them a regular salary without attending work. Eventually, the thrill of Fight Club wears off, and Tyler establishes Project Mayhem. It serves to disrupt society through kidnapping, vandalism, and propaganda to try to create literal anarchy and destroy society. Every week, Fight Club attendees are given tasks. Some tasks are seemingly pro-social for instance, they threaten to stalk and kill somebody, if he doesn’t stop working at a gas station and follows his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Tyler suddenly disappears. The narrator goes looking for him everywhere throughout the country. Everyone recognizes the narrator, but won’t answer if they know who Tyler Durden is. They think it’s a trap or test, but hint that the narrator is Tyler Durden. Marla Singer soon confirms this is in fact true. The narrator is Tyler Durden. When the narrator goes to bed Tyler Durden wakes up. He basically has split personality disorder, and is so exhausted by his insomnia he can never remember what’s going on. He is always in a state of limbo, between sleep and wakefulness. Tyler Durden threatens the narrator to not stop him, or he will ‘get him.’ The narrator tries to disband Fight Club and Project Mayhem to no avail. He takes the bus to work one day to sees a huge explosion at his company. He knows Tyler Durden killed his boss. He is soon kidnapped by fight club members for trying to stop the organization. He then wakes up in his Paper street abandoned house. Tyler tells him to wake up and get ready for his grand climatic death. He is going to explode a large building with himself inside. In the building before the explosives go off. He puts a gun to his head. Marla comes with the support group people and police helicopters are in the area. He refuses to listen to her and pulls the trigger. He wakes up in what he believes is heaven but is actually in a mental institute. Workers in the institution are also members of fight club and say they look forward to getting him back.


 “Getting fired,” Tyler says, “is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives.”



Fight Club embodies the spirit of western counter-culture. It clearly reveals our consumeristic culture for what it is. Shallow, meaningless and mind numbingly boring. Utterly void of meaning and inspiration. He shows this by rejecting everything about mainstream society. He questions the point of getting married and having a family. He questions how his life would become better, by simply getting married. Also, the book and movie dives into atheism as well. In the movie, when he is getting the lye chemical burn on his hand, it in a sense is, him freeing himself from God. Tyler Durden says how God hates you, and you need to accept that. Tyler is forcing him to acknowledge the notion that there may be no God, thus freeing him from the confines of religion and therefore society. In the book as well, there was dialogue about God hating you, and touches on the notion of giving up religion and freeing yourself from the restrictions of society, which for a big part is religion. This is a central theme to the book. The theme of giving up everything you believe in so that you can truly live your life free and autonomous. The book touches upon how we can have, all the material possessions in the world like a nice house, nice car, nice furniture and still be completely depressed and miserable. It shows office life for what it is, often monotonous and totally unfulfilling. A search for identity is a key theme in the book. The narrator defines his life through a job he hates and meaningless cookie cutter Ikea furniture sets. It perfectly showcases existentialism, the philosophy of what’s the meaning of life. The movie starts off on the extreme end of the spectrum of existentialism. It portrays a meaningless, rudderless life where you’re are destined to soul crushing office life, and cookie cutter possessions that define you. You basically have no control over your life; you’re destined to a nine to five, 1.4 child life. You are completely enslaved by your job and alienated from your life and hobbies. Then, the opposite side of the spectrum reveals itself. Quitting your job and losing all your possession to pursue meaning in your life. This is depicted by the narrator becoming a cult legend and trying to destroy society to create a better society through anarchy, which he believes it complete freedom. Through this he finally finds meaning and fulfillment in his life that he was so lacking. He does this by abandoning societal norms such as marriage, materialism, and religion. By giving up all the societal pressures, he is able to live his life unbothered, and can seek out what he truly wants to do. Essentially, he found complete meaning and control over his life regardless of society constraints. He did his by giving them all up. Fight Club portrays two unique and extreme version of life in terms of meaning and fulfillment in life.

Worker Bees can leave

Even drones can fly away

The queen is there slave

– Fight Club Haiku


The Movie

The movie is also excellent as well. It follows the book almost exactly, but adds or changes a few scenes for dramatic effect, so it makes it better as a movie. Dialogue is taken right from the book word for word at times. The movie is a little less dark as the book. For instance, Marla says “I want to have your abortion.” This kind of stuff you won’t find in the movie, as well as, the narrator talking about the hole in his cheek that never heals. The ending was more Hollywood happy ending type of crap in the movie. All and all, for a movie, it’s as good as it can get for a book adaptation. Which one should you read first? I would say which format you like better overall. If you a movie person, watch the movie first. If you a book person, read the book first. They are pretty much equal in quality. In-addition reading the afterword in the book was interesting. It took Chuck 3 months to write the book and got paid 6 thousand dollars for it. The book was a failure at launch; he said 3 people would often come to his book tour dates. But eventually, the hidden gem was discovered and starting winning awards for literature. Then of course became a box office hit with A list actors. I think it’s interesting how such an excellent book can languish in obscurity possibly indefinitely because the right people didn’t read it and make it mainstream.


It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

-Fight Club

Watching the movie as a kid, and reading the book as an adult has really opened my eyes to the choices I have in life and how to find meaning and fulfillment in it. I once thought I would go to university and get an office job and start a family in my mid 20’s. After graduating into The Great Recession, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I desperately wanted an office job. But after letting go of what had been ingrained into our heads by society I found my happiness and meaning in life. It helped me make the decision to immigrate to South Korea and give up all the crap that was in my head before. I can live happily and carefree, and not feel pressured to get that ‘corporate gig’ and be ‘successful’. It encouraged me to peruse wild, dubious dreams, such a becoming an author.

This book tackles societal taboo’s such and questioning consumerism and not wanting a ‘successful career.’ It challenges the ingrained notions about what life is meant to be. I found it very powerful as a child and continue to as an adult. It touches upon the deepest questions of humanity such as what’s the point of life? How do I find meaning in my life? Is society right? The book is original, deep and intellectual story told through a dark and fascinating plot. It has changed the course of my life and helped me accept that everything in life is not meant to be what society wants to shove down your throat. It has helped me realize the true power I have over life. A meaningful and exciting life is just waiting for me to reach out in grab it. The only thing holding me back is me.


Written by Dongbaek Sasang


“The Goal was to teach man in the project that he had the power to control history. We each of us, can take control of the world.”

-Tyler Durden in Fight Club