The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun

The Disaster Tourist is a darkly funny novel about a company that arranges holidays to disaster sites. Yona has worked for years for Jungle, a travel company for package trips to disaster sites, but it seems like her job is less secure these days. When her boss behaves inappropriately towards her, she tries to quit, but the company makes her an offer to visit one of their destinations, report back on whether it is good enough, and not leave just yet. She goes to the remote desert island of Mui, where there’s supposed to be a great sinkhole, but her and the other travellers are disappointed by the small scale of what they see. However, Yona starts to realise that there’s a plan to make a much more impressive disaster occur, but she might be part of it.

This is a short, engaging novel that places a fed up employee in a strange unfolding situation and pokes fun at people who holiday in other people’s disasters whilst also considering the environment and social impact of this. It is fast paced and easy to get into, and ironically could be quite a fun holiday read that still leaves you with things to think about. I found myself near the end imagining how it could be adapted into a film, with an extra layer of thought about voyeurism and disaster.

The Disaster Tourist combines dark and ridiculous with thought-provoking questions about the nature of disaster tourism, particularly in the wake of interest in places like Chernobyl.