There are a lot of Korean fiction novels that you need to read. Korean literature is interesting because authors tend to explore various themes such as mental health, war, feminism, etc. We have compiled five Korean fiction novels to check out.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
A fiction novel by Cho Nam-Joo is about Kim Jiyoung, an ordinary woman in her mid-30s, who becomes a stay-at-home wife after her daughter’s birth. Soon after, Kim Jiyoung suffers from depression. The story goes on by sharing her memories of childhood, her early school years, college, getting married, getting a white-collar job, and then becoming a mother. It is a simple story to follow. However, it goes beyond that as the book talks about Korea’s patriarchal society and how it can be detrimental to women’s mental health. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, became a global sensation when it first came out on Oct.14, 2016. The book is available in Korean and English.
Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-Sook
With million copies sold within ten months of its release, Please Look After Mom is a must-read. It has been critically acclaimed internationally and won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize. The story is about So-Nyo, a sixty-nine-year-old separated from her husband among the Seoul subway station crowds. Her family then begins a desperate search to find her. Throughout the novel, the family discovers long-held secrets and private sorrows as they are forced to wonder how much they know this woman they called mother? The author explores the themes related to the self-sacrifice that mothers have to rake and aspects of self-identity. The style of the novels is also engaging. The entire book is composed of second-person narration.
The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee
Chang-Rae Lee is a best-selling and award-winning author of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft. In 2011, Chang-Rae released one of his most ambitious novel, The Surrendered, a story of how love and war can echo through a lifetime. June Han, the protagonist of the story, was orphaned as a girl during the Korean War. Hector Brennan is a young soldier who escapes his small town to serve his country. The two characters collided together at a Korean orphanage, where they met Sylvie Tanner. The novel is a breathtaking masterpiece as it explores the struggles of the Korean War.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Min Jin Lee is a Korean-Amerian author. Her second novel is Pachinko, a historical story about a Korean family who migrates to Japan. The book centers around different characters as they become subject to racism and stereotypes during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The novel received excellent reviews from The New York Times, NPR, The Guardian, etc.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Published in 2007, The Vegetarian is a South Korean three-part novel by Han Kang. The book is set in modern-day Seoul and follows the story of Yeong-hye, a part-time graphic artist and home-maker who one day decides to stop eating meat after a nightmare about human cruelty. Her decision then leads to overwhelming consequences in her personal and family life. The book is told in three parts: “The Vegetarian,” “Mongolian Mark,” and “Flaming Trees.”
Have you read any of these books before? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!