The Disaster Tourist is a clever romp sprinkled with dark humor that effectively distracts the reader from focusing attention on the extreme poverty, class issues, sexism, and climate change, that form the backdrop of the story. Yona, a ten-year employee at The Jungle, is losing her self-confidence. Ready to quit, her boss sends her on a business ‘vacation’ where she must evaluate one of the company’s disaster tours undercover and report if it should be cut or continued. From day one Yona knows this tour needs to go. But she also learns this small island’s industry has moved elsewhere and the economy is completely dependent on The Jungle’s tours. This knowledge seems to be the catalyst for Yona’s slow breakdown. While this might sound grim, there is a lightness and rhythm in the writing that kept me completely engaged to the end. I can’t wait to read more by Yun Ko-eun; it looks like another novel might be translated and published in Fall 2020.— Kay Wosewick
August 2020 Indie Next List
“This book is about every sort of disaster that can happen: ecological, economic, social, moral, and even the unexpected. When Yona, a designer of ‘disaster tours’ for a travel company, is forced to go on a business trip to a remote island, she gets caught up with making a disaster of her own. This book brilliantly peels back the layers of ecotourism, capitalism, and all the ways we are complicit in creating catastrophes. A shocking, thought-provoking book that’s also a great read.”
— Dan Schwartz, Changing Hands Bookstore & First Draft Book Bar, Phoenix, AZ
Welcome to the desert island of Mui, where a paid vacation to paradise is nothing short of a disaster in this "mordantly witty novel that] reads like a highly literary, ultra-incisive thriller (Refinery29).
Jungle is a cutting-edge travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. And until she found herself at the mercy of a predatory colleague, Yona was one of their top representatives. Now on the verge of losing her job, she's given a proposition: take a paid "vacation" to the desert island of Mui and pose as a tourist to assess the company's least profitable holiday.
When she uncovers a plan to fabricate an extravagant catastrophe, she must choose: prioritize the callous company to whom she's dedicated her life, or embrace a fresh start in a powerful new position? An eco-thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility, The Disaster Tourist introduces a fresh new voice to the United States that engages with the global dialogue around climate activism, dark tourism, and the #MeToo movement.
About the Author
YUN KO-EUN is the author of several novels and short story collections published in South Korea. She is a recipient of the Hankyoreh Literary Award, the Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award, and the Kim Yong-ik Literary Award. The Disaster Tourist is her second book to be published in English. She lives in Seoul, South Korea. LIZZIE BUEHLER studied comparative literature at Princeton University and holds an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. Her writing and short translations appear in Asymptote, Azalea Magazine, Litro, The Massachusetts Review, and Translation Review.