The Star ($29.00; Sept. 26, 1996; 141 pp.; 0-7103-0533-8): Eight affecting stories by contemporary Korean writers, mostly straightforward in conception (though they're anything but inartistic), that contrast the impoverished lives of struggling families with nostalgic visions of the culture's glorious past. The watershed experience of the Korean Civil War is recalled in such stark tales as Im Chol-woo's ``My Father's Land'' and also the harrowing title story (by Yoo Jai-yong). Other excellent pieces include Choi Hak's ``The Guest'' and Yang Guija's memorable portrait of an imaginative girl alienated from conventional folkways and expectations, ``The Poet of Wonmi-Dong.'' All these stories were written between 1977 and 1990; their authors are accomplished storytellers well worth getting acquainted with.