Oh Junghee’s career as a writer began in 1968 with the publication of the short story “The Toy Store Lady.” In this debut work, a young elementary-school-aged girl feels abandoned by the world, and her aimless wanderings and sense of loss give shape to the story. For a while, images of lost souls such as this recurred in various forms throughout Oh’s work. Oh used the expression “a self-portrait of youthful misery” to describe the fiction from her early period that was published in her first story collection, The River of Fire (1977). The narrative situations show the distinctive flow of consciousness of lost souls. Oh chose disordered femininity as her subject matter, and used memorable images to foreground aspects such as grotesque bodies, perverse sexuality, sterility, and abortion.
In Oh’s second story collection, Garden of Childhood (1981), the years around the time of the Korean War serve as the setting for the author’s depiction of a young girl gradually coming of age. Oh’s protagonist in the title story, “Garden of Childhood,” is a young girl who shows signs of psychological deviance, raised in a family adversely affected by the war. Oh uses this character to question the prevailing sexual ideology, even as she presents us with a picture postcard of a turbulent age. This period is remembered as a time when the girl cried with “shame and sorrow.” Likewise, an atmosphere of horror, pity, shame, and sorrow pervades the story “Chinatown.” A young girl in the slums of Chinatown reaches a new level of maturity as she adopts new views and grows in experience. This work demonstrates Oh’s unique use of symbols and serves as a model of well-crafted short fiction.
In Spirit on the Wind (1986), Oh concentrates on middle-aged female protagonists, writing about their anxiety and identity confusion. With this approach, she explores the melancholy and sadness that has been an inescapable part of Korean women’s lot. Tackling the stories of the sick and the elderly in “Evening Game,” “Bronze Mirror,” and other stories, Oh’s investigations into femininity culminate in “The Old Well” (1994). Through made up memories of an old well, and longing for it, Oh reflects on where feminine depths really lie. In conclusion, during the war and modernization, men and the world inflicted wounds on women that they could not help but internalize. In her fiction, Oh looks in anguish at these wounds from the abyss where they were sustained, but even so, she tentatively makes her way towards the horizon of healing through her distinctive way of writing as a woman.