Shinbyeong

Entangled in a web of bass frequencies, I have isolated my world within an army of techno lovers. All dancing. Everything is blurry, and I am unable to see who is near. The stroboscope starts sending rapid flashes of white light, changing my blurred vision to a black and white filter. All I see are the silhouettes of the dancing people. Between every flash, their posture changes. The stroboscopes took the fluidity of my vision away. The temporal lobe, a part of my brain that oversees my eyes can’t keep up with all the input.

The tempo of the music sets my heart rate, and the DJ is playing all out. My limbs are making repetitive movements, and everyone else seems to dance with me. The music commands us— we’re all subjugated to the same beat and forming a synchronized movement. That’s probably why we feel so connected as we march through the night. An army of lost souls. Drunk or drugged and dancing on delusional melodies, we all march forth purposely.

I close my eyes as the strobes become too intense. With my eyes closed, my brain relaxes momentarily, but my body is unable to withstand the pounding waves. Then, the leading synths evaporate, giving space and time for our bodies to recuperate. The bass slowly fades out.

Collectively, we slow down, except for a couple of people, with beats that still echo in their minds. While the dark sounds are hypnotizing our brains, our bodies keep anticipating the next beat. We feel — but we cannot explain. I open my eyes again. The lights have dimmed along with the music. Both humans and machines seem to take a rest in harmony. I look around and see mostly young people. Some of them laughing, others chatting.

I see a couple kissing next to me. Others are in pure ecstasy with their eyes closed and hands raised in the air. As if they vow themselves to an unknown greater force. The music is slowly gaining momentum and building up.

A moment of silence before the endless kicks start pounding again. This tiny moment makes me realize I’m alone. I can’t see any of my friends and the sense of being surrounded by strangers strikes a spike of anxiety within me. Then, the bass drum starts kicking and the sum of everyone's experience squashes down my momentary feeling of despair. I am dancing with the crowd, laughing together, taking drugs together. With these existential beings, I feel sane, in a hidden basement in the slums of Pyongyang, North Korea.

What is Shinbyeong about?

After South- and North Korea have unified, we follow the life of a young introvert geek. Living in the slums of Pyongyang. He indulges in psychedelic party-drugs at underground raves.

He wakes up alone after losing control of himself at a party. Without his friends and lots of unread messages on his phone, he has no clue what happened. But after this incident, strange visual glitches are popping up. He thinks he might be going crazy.

Yet, his roommate, Chung-Hei, connects his experiences to old Korean shamanistic mythologies. This starts off an investigation and together they go up to Mount Paektu. All while following the thoughts of a man going insane.

Shinbyeong also contains a documentary to support the storyline. Telling you what happened to North-Korea before and after the unification. And explains real, ancient Korean mythologies to support the story.

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What readers say about Shinbyeong

  • Leandro

    Up until you mentioned North Korea, the story could have been based anywhere. The feelings it stirred up within me, reminded me of my time in Berlin. Your writing is a still, minimal, sometimes a poetic style. Sometimes you switch to a documentary style. Really detailed and imaginative painting of the world. A lot of thought went into this, which I appreciate. Everything leading up to Shinbyeong had me guessing what was really going on. It’s a great build up. You blend tech, music, mysticism and culture. I love the story and am fully invested in the world..

    Leandro, Co-founder, CEO at Unubo.
  • Pieter Levels

    Shinbyeong is a cyberpunk epos set in post-apocalyptic North Korea that will leave you slack-jawed and drooling for more.

    Pieter Levels maker of Nomadlist.com
  • Scott Darby

    The themes are interesting and it's written in such a visual way that it gave me quite a clear mental picture of what's going on

    Scott Darby, Audio Visual Artist & Creative Coder
  • Aike de Jongste

    Great book in a great setting. I'm a developer and sysadmin myself and really liked some of the technical details used in the story when the main character searches for clues on a hacked server. Even the great Cory Doctorow doesn't do this.

    Aike de Jongste, Ruby developer

Rou Hun Fan is an independent author

Rou Hun Fan is an independent author

He’s been writing in private for 10+ years and now starts the quest to pursue his passion openly. Nomading in Asia and supporting himself doing development and design, in an attempt to enter an industry well known for struggling artists. All support will help him create and hopefully one day switch to a full writing career.

You can support him by buying his book and tweet or DM him a hello on Twitter.