Multilingual WorksFive Must-Read Korean Books for College Entrance Exam Takers
November 22, 2023
It’s no exaggeration to say that students in Korea study intensively for years just to take the college entrance exam (called CSAT). Study guidebooks are crucial resources for test-takers who need to stay focused on their goals without feeling torn between reality and hope. While there are countless guidebooks offering life wisdom, what becomes a vital guide for Korean students is their literary sensibility, which is a result of South Korea's emphasis on education that integrates literature into exam preparation–building not only academic skills, but also literary appreciation. The so-called “must-read” list of books for CSAT prep allow students to glimpse into the lives and emotions of people from different historical periods. For example, Kim Yu-Jeong’s Downpour delves into the contradictions and moral struggles in rural communities through the lives of an itinerant farming couple. Pak Taewon’s A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist showcases the role of modern Korean literature by depicting the idling life of lumpen intellectuals. Yi Kwang-su’s Mujŏng marks the beginning of Korean contemporary literature by exploring free love and enlightenment through its four central young characters. Cho Se-Hŭi’s The Dwarf exposes problems in Korean society while portraying a dwarf family’s dreams and their desire for freedom. Hyun Jin-geon’s One Lucky Day describes the hardships in the life of an old rickshaw driver. All these stories encourage test-takers to seriously contemplate how they want to live their own lives ㅣNovel Downpour [English] Author Kim Yu-JeongTranslator Yoonna ChoPublisher Literature Translation Institute of KoreaYear Published 2014Originally published in Korea by The Chosun Ilbo in 1935 Kim Yu-Jeong’s short story was selected for the 1935 The Chosun Ilbo’s New Spring Literary Contest. It portrays the poverty and harsh reality of itinerant farmers at that time through the trials faced by a couple who were forced to leave their home during a year of famine. The authoritarian Chunho, who pesters his wife for money to squander on gambling, his wife’s dramatic decision to sacrifice her dignity and resort to prostitution to avoid his abuse, as well as the absurd relationships between landlords and tenant farmers, are depicted paradoxically and humorously in Downpour. This work invites readers to sink into contemplation. ㅣNovel A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist [English] *Part of ‘The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories’ series.Author Pak TaewonTranslators Sunyoung Park, Jefferson J. A. Gatrall, Kevin O’RourkePublisher Penguin BooksYear Published 2023Originally published in Korea by - This mid-twentieth-century novella was first published in 1934 in the Chosun Jungang Ilbo. At the age of twenty-six, novelist Kubo still lives with his widowed mother, without a job or a wife. This story is regarded as one of the most representative works of Korean modernist literature, masterfully employing a chronological detailing of the main character’s wandering around the city. As he roams the streets of Seoul, he captivates readers’ attention by skillfully moving between past and present, reality and fantasy, and through his encounters with the city’s landscape and its peoples, he delves into the ever-shifting realms of loneliness, desires, money, and love within the human psyche. ㅣNovel Mujŏng [English] Author Yi Kwang-suTranslators Ann Sung-hi LeePublisher East Asia ProgramYear Published 2005Originally serialized in Korea by the Maeil Sinbo in 1917, and published by Shinmunkwan and DongYang Seowon in 1918. Mujŏng, serialized in 1917 in the Maeil Sinbo, is Korea’s first modern novel, marking the beginning of modern Korean literature. Infused with the contemporary consciousness of that era, this work explores themes of free love and enlightenment. The story revolves around Yi Hyŏng-sik, an intellectual who works as an English teacher at Kyŏngsŏng School after studying in Japan; Pak Yŏng-ch’ae, a traditionally educated young woman who, after losing her virginity to the Kyŏngsŏng School inspector, contemplates suicide; Kim Sŏnhyŏng, a modern woman preparing for her studies in the United States; and Kim Pyŏng-uk, an anti-feudal and progressive international student. This novel vividly portrays the societal upheaval and moral ambiguity of Joseon’s period of transformation through characters that readers can readily empathize with. ㅣNovel The Dwarf [English] Author Cho Se-HŭiTranslators Bruce and Ju-Chan FultonPublisher University of Hawaii Press Year Published 2006Originally published in Korea by Literature and Intelligence in 1978 This short story was originally published in the 1976 Winter issue of the literary journal Literature and Intelligence. It continues to be cherished by readers to this day, as it offers a realistic depiction of the rapid industrialization of the 1970s through the struggles and sorrows of a dwarf’s family, shedding light on the disenfranchised and their loss of the foundations of life as their unauthorized village is razed to the ground. The story is divided into three parts, each focusing on one of the protagonist’s children: the first one focuses on the first-born son, Kim Yong-su, the second revolves around the second-born son, Kim Yong-ho, and the third one follows the youngest daughter, Kim Yong-hui. ㅣNovel A Lucky Day [Russian] Author Hyun Jin-geonTranslator Ким Сонмён,Илья БеляковPublisher АСТ ЛингваYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Gaebyeok, Issue 48, in 1924 First published in the June 1924 issue of the magazine Gaebyeok, this short story showcases the essence of realism by portraying the squalid lives of Joseon’s lower-class people through old rickshaw-porter Kim. After a ten-day streak of bad luck, Mr. Kim heads out to work, ignoring his sick wife’s pleadings to remain home with her. His wife’s pained expression bothers him throughout the day, but he continues to push through, as he cannot shake off opportunities to earn good money. This story, which focuses solely on the protagonist and vividly narrates the way he endures any hardship, deserves to remain in the CSAT curriculum as a witness of Korea’s past. Chayeon Since 1994, she has crafted pieces across diverse genres and various media, as though she was shaping different kinds of pottery. Beginning in 2009, she has been introducing readers of webzines to cultural information, from books to movies and travel destinations, almost as if she was sharing secrets deep into the night.
Multilingual WorksThe Beginning of K-Mystery Novels
September 21, 2023
In the past, Korea has been criticized for its lack of well-written mystery novels given the high interest shown by its audience. However, the emergence of recent works which boast unique characteristics and atmospheres have rendered this comment obsolete. Korean mystery novels are now at the center of popular interest, to the extent that they have secured a place as one of the core elements of K-culture. Lies exposes yet another tragedy that was swept under the rug amid the Sewol ferry disaster. Seven Years of Darkness unravels its mysterious plot through a frame narrative structure. The Only Child shows the genesis of evil and its chronicles, while Lemon explores the excruciating time spent by those left behind after the death of someone dear. Lastly, The Disaster Tourist is a fun read in which a travel agency sells disasters as a consumeristic product. These books are full of pleasure that only thrillers can provide. I highly recommend these to readers looking for some thrill and suspense. ㅣNovel Lies [French] Author Kim Tak-hwanTranslator François Blocquaux, Lee Ki JungPublisher L’AsiathèqueYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by Booksfear in 2016 There the sunken ferry sat. The story begins when diver Na Kyungsoo receives a call from a fellow diver and heads to Maenggol Channel. Kim Tak-hwan, famous for his works Apnok River, Dokdo Peace Exhibition and I, Hwang Jini, sheds light on the pain left behind by the Sewol ferry disaster. After scouring the deep sea to recover the bodies of children, these divers are only met with an irresponsible nation and accusations of financial greed. Written like a reportage, this daunting but unforgettable novel tells the story of diver Kim Kwanhong. ㅣNovel Seven Years of Darkness [English] Author You-jeong JeongTranslators Chi-Young KimPublisher Penguin BooksYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by EunHaeng NaMu Publishing in 2011 The man I had executed was my father.” Thus begins You-jeong Jeong’s gripping novel, Seven Years of Darkness. The book was also made into a movie thanks to its extraordinary subject and narrative. The story follows murderer Choi Hyonsu, who has killed an entire village by opening the floodgate of Seryong Village Dam, and Oh Yongje, the father Oh Seryong, one of Choi’s victims. With the spotlight on Choi Sowon, Choi Hyonsu’s son, and his suffering as the son of a murderer, readers discover the hidden stories behind each character. The novel draws inspiration from real events that took place in 2009. ㅣNovel The Only Child [English] Author SEO Mi-ae Translators Yewon JungPublisher Oneworld PublicationsYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by Elixir in 2018 Two strangers make their suddenly appearance in the life of criminal psychologist Seonkyeong. Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer who has maintained his silence and refused all interviews, while Hayeong is Seonkyeong’s step-daughter from her husband's previous marriage. The novel switches between the perspective of ten-year-old Hayeong and serial killer Yi Byeongdo as it chronicles the birth of evil. Hayeong’s simple good night to her mom contains an eerie menace that ishardly concealed beneath the words. With this work, writer Mi-ae So marks the beginning of Hayeong’s trilogy. ㅣNovel Lemon [English] Author Kwon Yeo-sunTranslators Janet HongPublisher Other PressYear Published 2021 Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2019 Author Kwon Yeo-sun presents us with a thriller that, like its unusual title, will take us by surprise. The main character is Da-on, younger sister of Hae-on, who died young at nineteen years old. Even after seventeen years, Da-on is still unable to let go of the past and wants to meet one of the suspects in her sister’s murder case, Han Manu, for herself. This mysterious yet composed narrative casts a sharp gaze on the characters whose lives have been intertwined with one another for seventeen long years. This captivating story has also been adapted into a play with the same title. ㅣNovel The Disaster Tourist [English] Author Yun Ko-eunTranslator Lizzie BuehlerPublisher ProfileYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by Minumsa in 2013 Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist takes off from a fun and ingenious premise. While the plot may at first seem unreal, it reflects the bitter taste of our present reality. The main character Ko Yona is a travel planner for an agency that sells tour packages in areas affected by natural disasters. On the verge of being fired, she visits Mui, a travel destination that is about to be pulled out from the list of tour destinations. There, Yona discovers how some people are trying to manufacture an artificial disaster in order to maintain Mui as a tourist destination, but plans start spiraling out of control. Hong Kwang-soo After studying the sublime aesthetics of Kant and Lyotard, he has worked as a film columnist across periodicals and magazines. He currently writes about movies, painting, dance, and theater, and also works as a freelance writer and lecturer.
Multilingual WorksFive Books Delving into the Truth of Alienated Individuals
September 21, 2023
There was a time when what we now take for granted wasn’t at all certain. I’m talking about human rights. Few question their relevance nowadays, but just a few decades ago, human rights were not a topic deserving importance. On The contrary, it was rather common for powerless individuals to be suppressed by stronger powers. We have brought together the works of five authors who have related stories of the past, stories that are so hard for us to imagine now as they feel more fictitious than science fiction. Yun Gi-jeong’s The Smokestack elucidates the fight for female workers labor rights, Young-sook Moon’s Trampled Blossoms and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass depict the endless struggles to protect the rights of comfort women. In this callous society, we constantly witness how women’s rights are more threatened than anything else. Both the fight for freedom and the struggles of surviving under a dictatorship are realistically depicted in Han Kang’s Human Acts and in Bandi’s The Accusation. These are five different, yet similar stories. Though they are complex, I hope readers can enjoy them with composure. ㅣNovel The Smokestack [English] Author Yun Gi-jeongTranslator Mi-Ryong ShimPublisher Literature Translation Institute of KoreaYear Published 2014Originally published in Korea by Joseonjigwang in 1930 The lives of the female workers at DongA factory change completely when the smoke in Yanghoe cave stops. Fighting against unreasonable oppression and greed with all their might, more than five hundred workers decide to put their faith in the power of solidarity even in times of turmoil. The voices of these women who have sacrificed their youth for the sake of others realistically portray the brutality of that time. As these women’s hearts come together as one, let us can ponder on the value of this forgotten strike. ㅣNovel Trampled Blossoms [English] Author Young-Sook MoonTranslators David CarruthPublisher Seoul SelectionYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Seoul Selection in 2016 Young-Sook Moon doesn’t shy away from depicting the breeding ground of poverty and abuse, and the lives that have been trampled by Japanese imperialism. This book forces us to see the issue of comfort women not simply as a thing of the past, but also as something that could happen in the present and future, thus steering us away from making the same mistake. The author, an established figure in the field of young adult literature, sheds light on the historical events that comfort women experienced through this poignant work. ㅣGraphic Novel Grass [Spanish] Author Keum Suk Gendry-KimTranslators Joo Hasun Publisher Penguin RandomhouseYear Published 2022Originally published in Korea by Bori in 2017 The historical wounds of sexual slavery by the Japanese Empire have never healed in Korea. Based on grandmother Lee Ok-sun’s testimony, the author narrates the terrible life endured by comfort women within the confines of black and white painting. Japanese colonial rule may have come to an end afterthe Liberation, but for victims of sexual slavery, the war is very much ongoing. The author raises difficult questions on the meanings of peace and human rights in relation to the global issue of comfort women. ㅣNovel Human Acts [English] Author Han KangTranslators Deborah Smith Publisher HogarthYear Published 2017 Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2014 In this book, the tragedy and pain in the aftermath of the Gwangju Uprising are narrated in six unique chapters and episodes. Each chapteris narrated by a different character who vividly conveys the circumstances and feelings of countless people who have experienced this tragic incident. As we follow along the elaborate and delicate sentences weaved by the author, we realize that this is not simply a story that happened to some citizens in a certain region, but one that could have happened to all of us. ㅣNovel The Accusation [German] Author BandiTranslator Lee Ki-hyangPublisher PiperYear Published 2017Originally published in Korea by Dasan Books in 2017 This collection of stories was written by a writer who livesin the estranged nation of North Korea, and therefore chose to conceal theirname and identity to evade danger. These seven stories are based on theisolated daily lives of North Koreans. The writer clearly conveys what it meansto live under surveillance and oppression, and asks the reader to question thetrue value of freedom. PARK SI-HYEONG Park Si-hyeong studied aesthetics and now writes novels and columns. After having worked as a magazine editor, he is now a freelance content editor.
WorksA Peek into the Lives of Korean Writers!
August 18, 2023
Unbelievable stories sometimes happen more often in reality than in books. We have prepared here a list of books that are realer than reality. Five novelists that have experienced the ups and downs of Korea’s modern and contemporary history have described their experiences with honesty and dignity. What is it that they had to endure? Kyung-sook Shin has worked in the Guro Industrial Complex just like her narrator in The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, while Hwang Sok-yong has been imprisoned for his activism as detailed in The Prisoner. In Who Ate Up All the Shinga? Park Wan-suh depicts a Seoul devastated by the war against Japan. Yi Chong-Jun’s The Snowy Road recreates the snowy landscape of the author’s hometown in the 1970s and is based on the life story of his mother. Lastly, with The Yalu Flows we follow author Yi Mi-Ruk as he crosses the Yalu River to reach Germany to escape from the Japanese Empire after his participation in the March 1st Movement. With their sensitivity and compassion, five novelists unveil a myriad of stories that have been swept away by the passing of time, though they deserved to have been preserved. Let’s lend an ear to these stories that writers felt compelled to write. ㅣ The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness [English] Author Kyung-Sook Shin Translator Ha-yun JungPublisher Pegasus BooksYear Published 2015Originally published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 1995 This autobiographical novel explores the love and pain of a young writer who worked as a factory worker. Despite exploitation and tyranny, the author had to endure in the workplace, her dreams of becoming a writer served as a beacon of hope. The wounds that covered her whole body during those difficult times are told through calm strokes of the pen. ㅣ The Prisoner [English] Author Hwang Sok-yongTranslators Sora Kim Russell, Anton HurPublisher Verso BooksYear Published 2021Originally Published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2017 This autobiographical story narrates the author’s turbulent journey through pivotal episodes of modern history—The Korean War, the April Revolution, the dispatch of troops to Vietnam, the Gwangju Uprising. After visiting North Korea in 1989, the writer became a prisoner and stood against the taboos of his own society. Through lucid prose, the writer faces the absurdities of days long gone and shares his experiences. ㅣ Who Ate Up All the Shinga? [English] Author Park WansuhTranslators Yu Young Nan, Stephen J. EpsteinPublisher Columbia University PressYear Published 2009Originally published in Korea by Woongjin ThinkBig in 1992 This book is yet another autobiography inspired by the author’s memories, from her childhood spent in the Gyeonggi province in the 1930s, to the years of her miserable youth in the 1950s in Seoul. With elegant yet raw strokes, the writer recounts her life during the Japanese occupation, the liberation, and the Korean War, through a story that spans Korea’s modern history. ㅣ The Snowy Road [English] Author Yi Chong-JunTranslators Hyunjae Yee Sallee, Teresa Margadonna HyunPublisher White Pine PressYear Published 1993Originally published in Korea by Moonji in 1997 The Snowy Road is an autobiographical novel that expresses the protagonist’s love and hate toward his mother and hometown in a calm and unadorned manner. Telling himself that he owes her nothing, the narrator tries to pull away from his mother, but as he listens in on his wife and mother’s conversation, he reaches reconciliation. What circumstances could have caused the protagonist to set such a boundary, and address his own mother as ‘old person’? ㅣ The Yalu Flows [German] Author Yi Mi-RukTranslator -Publisher EOS VerlagYear Published 1996Originally published in Korea by Bumwoosa in 2000 This book first achieved success in Germany in 1946 before its translation became a hit in Korea. In his autobiographical novel which was praised for its literary value, the writer, who lived through the Japanese colonization, recalls in detail that period of time. After the March 1st Independence Movement, the author crossed the Yalu River and traveled across China, India, and the Suez Canal to settle in Germany in order to avoid Japanese spies. This work expresses the inner conflict of the writer as he lived in an era of change, in which the values of the West and the East were intertwined. PARK SI-HYEONG Park Si-hyeong studied aesthetics and now writes novels and columns. After having worked as a magazine editor, he is now a freelance content editor.
WorksMeet the Writers from the 2023 Seoul International Writers’ Festival!
August 17, 2023
The Seoul International Writers’ Festival is a literary festival that aims to raise the status of Korean literature on the world stage by allowing overseas readers to enjoy their favorite Korean books. From 2006 to 2022, 295 Korean and foreign writers from 58 countries have gathered to share their thoughts about the world, language, life, and literature, and the relationship between writers and readers. This year’s theme, “Crossing the Bridge of Language,” will undoubtedly bring us more memorable stories. With her short story collection, Spring Light, Jeong Ji A, author of the bestselling novel My Father’s Liberation Diary, makes waves on the social level. Choi Eunyoung’s Shoko’s Smile needs no introduction, while Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park illustrates a new perspective of love from the younger generation. Kim Keum Hee takes inspiration from the ordinary to create extraordinary episodes in her novel, Too Bright Outside for Love, and poet Jin Eun-young writes letters to her readers through her poems. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s read the works of these five authors, and get hyped for this year’s festival! ㅣ La lumière du printemps (Spring Light) [French] *one of the collections from 'Corée des villes, Corée des champs' Author Jeong Ji A Translators Kim Jeong-Yeon, Suzanne SalinasPublisher Decrescenzo ÉditeursYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2008 As with the acclaimed My Father’s Liberation Diary from last year, and her first novel, Partisan Daughter, which was published when the author was just twenty-five, Jeong Ji A strikes yet another chord with this story collection that explores lives destroyed by war and ideologies. This collection contains eleven short stories, including “Landscape,” winner of the Lee Hyoseok Literary Award. Through eclectic characters like an elderly person with dementia, a partisan’s wife who withhold her thoughts, a mother and son who grow old together, and two fated people with the same name that meet on a hiking trail, we are shown glimpses of the writer’s affection towards the humankind. ㅣ Shoko’s Smile [English] Author Choi EunyoungTranslator Sung RyuPublisher Penguin Publishing GroupYear Published 2021Originally Published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2016 Comprising of seven stories, Shoko’s Smile was awarded a prize just two months after its publication. Choi Eunyoung has risen quickly to stardom, becoming a writer loved and trusted by many readers. The novel introduces characters like Shoko, an exchange student from Japan, Mrs. Nguyen, a survivor of the Vietnam war, an elderly person and a middle-aged woman who meet during the protests for the Sewol ferry disaster. These stories vividly capture the characters’ progress as they learn to maneuver relationships, and learn how to empathize by putting themselves in the shoes of others. ㅣ Love in the Big City [English] Author Sang Young ParkTranslator Anton HurPublisher Grove PressYear Published 2021Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2019 Sang Young Park’s novel has been a trending topic after being nominated for the Booker Prize, one of the world’s three top literary awards, and for the International Dublin Literary Award. Strung together by episodes, the book kicks off with the winner of the Young Writer’s Award, “A Bite of Rockfish, Taste the Universe,” and the title episode, “Late Rainy Season Vacation.” Through humor and lighthearted prose, the author delves into the love and heartbreak experienced by a young gay man. While overturning the preconceived idea of a queer narrator, this story deeply contemplates love and loss, and life and death. The title story is currently being adapted into a TV series. ㅣ We, Day by Day [English] Author Jin Eun-youngTranslator YoungShil JiPublisher White Pine PressYear Published 2018Originally published in Korea by Moonji in 2008 After studying philosophy to compose better poems and eventually becoming a poet, Jin Eun-young has confessed that philosophy has helped her look at the world with new eyes. Writing poetry is a very personal pursuit, but if poems are written as letters with the belief that someone will read them one day, then the poems of this collection are love letters that will one day reach her readers. The forty-nine poems in this collection create a stark contrast between the pure and delicate language in which they are written and the memories of reckless but passionate days. ㅣ 大白天的戀愛 (Too Bright Outside for Love) [Chinese] Author Kim Keum HeeTranslator 杜彦文Publisher 臺灣商務印書館Year Published 2021Originally Published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2016 After winning the Shin Dong-yup Prize for Literature with her first collection, Sentimentality Works Only for a Day or Two, the Hyundae Literary Award for the story “Everything About Chess,” and captivating her readers with her collection, Kyeong-ae’s Heart, Kim Keum Hee has won the Young Writers’ award for the title story of Too Hot Outside for Love, her second short story collection. These nine stories are about past memories that are better forgotten, not only because they’re insignificant, but also because they cannot be spoken about. Childhood memories, love stories that ended in painful breakups, and traumas buried in the subconscious reveal hidden truths and summon them to the present. Yoon Hye Suk Yoon Hye Suk started her career with the historical novel The Boys Are Coming. She now has more than thirty publications of fairy tales and YA novels under her belt. She teaches creative writing at Sejong Cyber University and Hankyoreh Cultural Center.
WorksFive Korean Dystopian Books
August 10, 2023
This summer's weather reflects the horrors of climate disasters seen in films like Haeundae and Tomorrow with unprecedented torrential rains, heat waves, landslides, and floods sweeping the world. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korean literary scene has witnessed a surge in dystopian books, explaining the rising readership in this genre. In Closed Zone, Seoul by Jung Myeong-seop, nuclear radiations engulf Seoul, pitting a treasure hunter against murderous zombies. After talking about the Sewol ferry tragedy in his previous book, Lies, Kim Takhwan tackles the 2015 MERS outbreak in I Shall Live. Had she known that a pandemic would have broken out in ten years, Hye-young Pyun would have never written City of Ash and Red, a novel that brings back memories of the pandemic. To The Warm Horizon depicts the desperate yet beautiful romance of two survivors seeking safety from an unidentified virus outbreak. Lastly, Walking Practice, presents the journal of Mumu, an alien living on Earth after a crash landing. These books present a world that doesn't feel too far-fetched. Although it's human nature to shy away from a dark future, one more vivid than reality, delving into these narratives allows us to ponder seriously about our future, our planet, and the fate of humankind. ㅣ Walking Practice [English] Author Dolki Min Translator Victoria CaudlePublisher HarperCollinsYear Published 2023Originally published in Korea by EunHaeng NaMu in 2022 Meet Mumu, an alien enduring the daily agony of assuming a human form and walking on two legs. After spending fifteen years on Earth, Mumu's survival strategy involves making its body alluring and using dating apps to meet humans, only to consume them after intimacy. Originally titled Azald, this self-published novel emerged through a Tumblbug crowdfunding project. It chronicles Mumu's survival journey, mastering human locomotion from 56 km to 0 km. Amidst the life of this cannibalistic extraterrestrial, the author offers a fresh perspective on gender, disability, and discrimination. ㅣ City of Ash and Red [English] Author Hye-young PyunTranslator Sora Kim-RussellPublisher Skyhorse PublishingYear Published 2018Originally Published in Korea by Changbi in 2010 Sent to an unfamiliar country C, the protagonist of the novel becomes a hunted man, suspected of murder when his dog and ex-wife are found dead in his home. As readers journey through this disease-infested, trash-laden, rat-infested place, they'll be gripped by suspense as the search for truth unfolds. Written over a decade ago, this prescient novel foreshadows the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing a dark side of modern civilization that could threaten humanity's existence. ㅣ To the Warm Horizon / Where the Sun Sets [Russian] Author Choi Jin-YoungTranslator Колбягина АлинаPublisher АСТ ЛингваYear Published 2021Originally published in Korea by Minumsa in 2017 Renowned for her exploration of love, author Choi Jin-young ventures into her first apocalyptic novel. It follows two women who find love amidst the chaos of an unknown virus outbreak. The novel beautifully illustrates that overcoming despair lies not in isolating within a bunker to evade the virus but embracing the present with unwavering love, despite past wounds and an uncertain tomorrow. ㅣ I Shall Live [Chinese] Author Kim TakhwanTranslator 胡椒筒Publisher 敦煌文藝出版社Year Published 2022Originally published in Korea by Booksfear in 2018 Three individuals contract MERS after visiting hospital F, where the first cases emerged. Over three years, they endure mistreatment and isolation while battling loneliness and the terror of mortality. The three protagonists are abandoned by authorities, hospital personnel, and even their neighbors in their fight against a government cover-up that falsely accuses them and conceals the truth behind the outbreak. ㅣ Closed Zone, Seoul [French] Author Jung Myeong-seopTranslators Hwang Jihae, Julien PaolucciPublisher Decrescenzo ÉditeursYear Published 2018Originally Published in Korea by Neofiction in 2012 North Korea launches nuclear bombs over Seoul, turning the city into a zombie-infested wasteland. The main character is a treasure hunter who ventures in and out of Seoul despite it being sealed-off to retrieve precious mementos for clients. But when he encounters a fifteen-year-old girl, a massive conspiracy unravels. Jung, an avid zombie enthusiast, expertly weaves horror and thriller elements, juxtaposing the living and the undead to provoke contemplation on life's significance. Yoon Hye Suk Yoon Hye Suk started her career with the historical novel The Boys Are Coming. She now has more than thirty publications of fairy tales and YA novels under her belt. She teaches creative writing at Sejong Cyber University and Hankyoreh Cultural Center.
WorksFive Korean Books Reborn Onscreen
August 09, 2023
Korean books with compelling narratives often find new life as impressive scripts for movies and dramas, perhaps because of their vivid imagery that is reminiscent of a cinematic experience. Infused with societal awareness, immersive storytelling, and memorable characters unique to Korean literature, they gain fresh vitality when brought to life by talented directors and actors. Such adaptations, invite audiences to enjoy the thrill of comparing them to their original counterparts. Here are five Korean literary masterpieces that have been reborn through the magic of movies and TV dramas. Togani by Gong Ji-Young confronts an uncomfortable truth that demands attention, resonating as both a successful novel and a compelling movie. The Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong, a prominent writer of modern Korean realism, is a masterpiece that captures the tragic political history of modern Korea. In Tunnel, So Jaewon uses the framework of a disaster to underline social problems. I Met Loh Kiwan by Cho Hae-jin follows the gripping journey of a North Korean refugee, soon to be portrayed by Song Joong-ki in an upcoming film. Lastly, The Greenhouse at the End of the Earth by Kim Choyeop, one of Korea’s most popular science fiction writers, has been officially announced as a TV series to the excitement of many fans. ㅣ Togani [English] Author Gong Ji-Young Translators Bruce and Ju-Chan FultonPublisher University of Hawaii PressYear Published 2023Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2009 Gong Ji-Young’s novel Togani, based on a shocking true story, left society heartbroken twice: first upon its release and again in 2011 as a movie featuring actors Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi. The inspiration for the novel came from a newspaper article about a sexual violence case at a school for disabled students in Gwangju. The combined success of the book and movie led to the passing of the so-called Togani laws, imposing stricter punishments for sexual crimes. Togani was directed by none other than Hwang Dong-hyuk, the mastermind behind the hit series Squid Game, whose fans will not want to miss this book. ㅣ The Old Garden [English] Author Hwang Sok-yongTranslator Jay OhPublisher Seven Stories PressYear Published 2012Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2000 Hwang Sok-yong’s name is synonymous with Korean literature. As a prominent realist writer, Hwang explores diverse topics, such as history, society, and modernization. The Old Garden depicts lives under dictatorship, recounting the tragic love story of democracy activist Oh Hyun-woo and art teacher Han Yoon-hee, shedding light on the violence of the political system of that ear. Told through letters, flashbacks, and monologues, the plot never dulls. The movie starring Ji Jin-hee and Yum Jung-ah leans more towards the melodramatic genre, focusing on the characters’ love story. ㅣ Tunnel [Chinese] Author So JaewonTranslator 胡椒筒Publisher 暖暖書屋Year Published 2020Originally published in Korea by gcbook in 2013 So Jaewon’s novels have inspired numerous filmmakers. I’m a Ten was made into Beastie Boys in 2008, and Wish (Searching for the Wings of Hope) and its film adaptation followed in 2013. In 2016, Tunnel became yet another hit movie, featuring Ha Jung-woo and Bae Doona. While the film emphasizes efforts to rescue protagonist Lee Jungsoo from the tunnel, the novel provides a stronger social critique. As inferred by the subtitle, Tunnel—We Were All Faceless Murderers, So’s novel shines a light on society’s problems, the structural issues leading to accidents, and how easily people are swayed by public opinion. ㅣ I Met Loh Kiwan [English] Author Cho Hae-jinTranslator Ji-Eun LeePublisher University of Hawaii PressYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2011 In Cho Hae-jin’s novel, the narrator seeks out Loh Kiwan, a North Korean defector, in Brussels, Belgium. Though the plot may exude a peculiar detective vibe, I Met Loh Kiwan is a story of compassion, friendship, and affection, and it extends comfort toward refugees while retaining a strong sense of humanism. Cho’s novel is set to be adapted into into a Netflix movie, with actor Song Joong-ki expected to play the role of Loh Kiwan. Unlike the original story, the movie will portray the unintentional love story between Loh Kiwan and Mari, a South Korean and former sport shooter. ㅣ The Greenhouse at the End of the Earth [Russian] Author Kim ChoyeopTranslators Mavleeva Darya Vladimirovna, Ekaterina PokholkovaPublisher АСТ МейнстримYear Published 2023Originally published in Korea by Giant Books in 2021 Kim Choyeop, one of Korea’s beloved young writers, has garnered a devoted fan base with her science fiction short story collections like If We Can’t Travel at the Speed of Light. Her first full-length novel The Greenhouse at the End of the Earth will be made into a television series produced by Studio Dragon. Set in the near future after the world is destroyed by dust, the novel, true to Kim’s style, evokes deep emotions and memories. Jiyeon Kim Jiyeon Kim is a content creator who reads, writes, and breathes contents. She dreams of devouring as much content as possible. After a career in online news media, she is now working as a writer for an online movie magazine.
WorksFive Thrillers to Beat the Summer Heat
July 14, 2023
The rainy season is upon us, making it the perfect weather to snuggle up and read some thriller books at home. Thrillers are the perfect antidote to the scorching summer sun. They take us on a roller coaster ride with unpredictable plot twists. Our hearts race fast, our hands get clammy, and our skin crawl at every turn. Here are five engrossing Korean thrillers that you won’t be able to put down: Fauster is a gripping and imaginative thriller by Kim Ho-yeon, author of the bestselling novel, Uncanny Convenience Store. Gu Byeong-mo’s The Old Woman with the Knife features a unique female lead, a sixty-year-old contract killer. We then move on to the undisputed stars of Korean thrillers, Kim Young-Ha, with Diary of a Murderer, and Un-su Kim’s The Plotters, novels that unfold like a movie with its vibrant settings. Lastly, You’ll Never Know by Jeong Yi Hyun is a thriller that draws attention to the meaning of family and the problem of isolation in our modern society. With their elaborate plots and insightful perspectives, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the pages. This summer, all you’ll need are books and good air conditioning. ㅣ Fauster [German] Author Kim Ho-yeon Translator Kyong-Hae FlügelPublisher Golkonda VerlagYear Published 2021Originally published in Korea by Wisdom House in 2019 Fauster is a chilling dystopian novel by Kim Ho-yeon, who is best known for his heartwarming bestseller, Uncanny Convenience Store. Inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Kim creates a terrifying world where human existence is questioned and challenged. This book marks a bold genre shift for the author, and invites the reader to reflect on what it means to be human. ㅣ The Old Woman with the Knife [French] Author Gu Byeong-moTranslators Véronique Cavallasca, Lee Tae-yeonPublisher Decrescenzo éditeursYear Published 2022Originally Published in Korea by Jaeum & Moeum (Irum) in 2013 Gu Byeong-mo delivers a thrilling and original story of a contract killer in her novel, The Old Lady Next Door. The narrator’s seemingly ordinary neighbor turns out to be a ruthless assassin, defying all stereotypes. Gu’s vivid and emotional narration will captivate the reader and make them feel like they are watching a movie. ㅣ Diary of a Murderer [Spanish] Author Kim Young-HaTranslator Cho-lim SeongPublisher Temas de hoyYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2013 Diary of a Murderer is a bestselling novel that has been adapted into a movie. It tells the story of a serial killer with Alzheimer’s through his diary entries. Before his time runs out, the protagonist plans a final murder plan to save his daughter. The book has a shocking twist at the end, and leaves the reader with haunting questions about memory, time and death. ㅣ The Plotters [German] Author Un-su KimTranslator Rainer SchmidtPublisher Europa VerlagYear Published 2018Originally published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2010 The Plotters is a gripping crime novel by Kim Un-su, who has been compared to Henning Mankell, the Swedish master of the genre. The book follows the lives of plotters and assassins who are hired to orchestrate and carry out murders. Kim’s concise and intense writing style matches the complexity of the plotters’ schemes. The book also explores the human condition, and reveals deep insights on psychology and human nature. The Plotters has been sold to more than twenty countries, and has received international acclaim. ㅣ You’ll Never Know [Spanish] Author Jeong Yi HyunTranslator Ana BecciuPublisher Ediciones BYear Published 2015Originally published in Korea by Munhak Dongne in 2009 A child goes missing in the wealthy district of Bangbae-dong, Seoul, and a family is plunged into a web of secrets. You’ll Never Know is a thriller that goes beyond the typical suspense and mystery. It explores the themes of loneliness, family, and alienation in modern society. It shows how finding oneself and one’s loved ones can be as hard as finding a lost child. Jiyeon Kim Jiyeon Kim is a content creator who reads, writes, and breathes contents. She dreams of devouring as much content as possible. After a career in online news media, she is now working as a writer for an online movie magazine.
WorksTravel to Magical Realms with These Five Fantasy Novels
July 14, 2023
Some summer nights can be so hot and stifling that sweat trickles down our backs even when we’re keeping still. Sleep eludes us and the tick-tocking of the clock grates on our nerves as we force our eyes shut. Instead of staying on our phones to pass these long nights, why don’t we plunge into some fantastic worlds? Let’s take a dive into these unbelievably mesmerizing fantasy novels. The bread baked and sold in Wizard Bakery makes wishes come true and contains magical moments that color our most ordinary lives. In the unique world of Dallergut Dream Department Store, dreams are bought and sold, and in School Nurse Ahn Eunyoung an atypical nurse fights against invisible monsters that haunt her school. Follow The Disaster Tourist on some questionable tour packages that take readers to disaster-stricken areas, and witness a Space Force made of misfits try to protect Earth and peace in Launch Something! From the very first page, these books and their unique and entertaining stories will make us forget about the swelter. Plus, these fantasy novels are more than just entertaining. They’re loaded with heart-wrenching emotions and poignant lasting feelings that can lead us to unexpected revelations. Besides, sometimes what we need is a light and fun read. On these long, sleepless nights, let’s dive into these curious fantasy books. Who knows? We might end up visiting these fantastic worlds in our dreams. ㅣ Wizard Bakery [Turkish] Author Gu Byeong-mo Translator Tayfun KartavPublisher LotusYear Published 2021Originally published in Korea by Changbi in 2009 A sixteen-year-old boy with a stutter lives with his father, stepmother, and younger sister. One day, after being accused of sexually harassing his sister, the boy runs away from home. He hides in Wizard Bakery, a place where he used to buy bread. The shop looks ordinary, but is owned by a wizard who bakes breads that can make wishes come true. This novel revolves around this boy, the magic breads and the stories of the customers who visit Wizard Bakery. ㅣ Dallergut Dream Department Store [German] Author Lee Mi-yeTranslators Kyong-Hae FlügelPublisher Golkonda VerlagYear Published 2022Originally Published in Korea by Factory Nine in 2020 There is a unique village that we can visit only when we fall asleep. The most popular shop here is Dallergut Dream Department Store. Specializing in dreams of all types, this shop is always bustling with people and animals, some blessed with deep sleeps and some who struggle to fall asleep. This book follows the adventures of one employee named Penny, the owner Dallergut, a dream designer named Aganep Coco, and the mysterious Vigo Myers. These quirky stories about dream makers and sellers will provide the best company on our summer nights. ㅣ School Nurse Ahn Eunyoung [Chinese] Author Chung SerangTranslator Liu WanyunPublisher The Commercial PressYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by Minumsa in 2015 What’s more entertaining than a character who is both a shaman and a school nurse? Meet Ahn Eunyoung, a school nurse, and no ordinary person: her unusual gift allows her to see and annihilate monstrous jellies that are invisible to other people’s eyes. This book follows incidents only made privy to students, and the cheery adventures of a quirky school nurse who, with her extraordinary powers, exorcises weird monsters hiding around the school. ㅣ The Disaster Tourist [English] Author Yun Ko-eunTranslator Lizzie BuehlerPublisher CounterpointYear Published 2020Originally published in Korea by Minumsa in 2013 The Disaster Tourist brings us vacation packages to disaster-stricken areas. This is the story of Yona, a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel agency that sells a tour package to Mui, a sinkhole in the desert. When she is separated from the group on the way back home, Yona returns to the resort where she lodged during her trip. To her horror, she is sucked into a plot to orchestrate an artificial disaster and secure Mui’s place in these tours. The combination of disaster and travel makes for a story as intriguing as a movie. ㅣ Launch Something! [English] Author Bae Myung-hoonTranslator Stella KimPublisher Honford StarYear Published 2022Originally published in Korea by Giant Books in 2020 Just as the Navy belongs in the sea, the Army on land, and the Air Force in the skies, the Space Force belongs in space. Set in the future, Earth’s Space Force has to find a way to quench the rebellion on Mars and stop a tyrant’s ascent to power. This is a story of an unconventional Space Force struggling to protect mankind’s peace, made all the more fun and entertaining with the appearance of absurd characters. EUM EUM is a travel writer and editor who roams the world. In addition to travel magazines, newsletter and daily newspapers, EUM plans and creates text-based contents for a variety of channels, including social media.
WorksRadiant Verse: Five Poetry Collections that Blossom in the Darkness
June 30, 2023
Poetry is more than fascinating, it is phenomenal. The world weaved through the language of poetry passes through moments of joy and sorrow and circles back again. Reading poetry allows us to experience that fleeting moment when sadness turns into joy, and darkness transforms into light. In our journey through life, we come to realize that it is not always sunny. Sometimes our hearts are clouded and we are engulfed in sadness. During such times, let us tune in to the “sound of darkness” in Ra Heeduk’s poetry collection, What is Darkening. That sound will lead us to tranquility. Days blighted by unexpected thunder and storms shouldn’t scare us either. In her Autobiography of Death, poet Kim Hyesoon offers us her strength to overcome pain and grief. Even when heavy snow or scorching heat waves confront us, we can face them head-on by drawing strength from the unabashed confessions within the pages of Lee Soho’s Catcalling. At the same time, we must never forget that the language of poetry is a voice that dispels darkness. In Bari’s Love Song, poet Kang Eun-Gyo presents us with a world of hope through the extraordinary journey of an abandoned princess turned heroine. Lastly, by immersing ourselves in Shim Bo-Seon’s Fifteen Seconds Without Sorrow, the joys and sorrows of our everyday lives can transform into fifteen seconds of pure, magical bliss. The light of poetry dissipates the darkness within our hearts, helping find hope and regain our footing when we feel lost. ㅣ Bari’s Love Song [English] Author Kang Eun-Gyo Translator Chung Eun-GwiPublisher Parlor PressYear Published 2019Originally published in Korea by Silcheon Munhak in 2014 The fifty-five poems contained in this collection delve into the story of Princess Bari, a girl abandoned both by her parents and the world. Bari’s journey is narrated in poetic language that transcends her suffering and hardships. The poet projects the fate of a woman and a poet onto Bari, who ventures into the underworld to obtain a remedy to save the same parents who abandoned her. Transforming from an abandoned child to a heroic savior battling darkness, Princess Bari and this collection of poems offer us a glimpse of hope. ㅣ Fifteen Seconds Without Sorrow [English] Author Shim Bo-SeonTranslators Chung Eun-Gwi, Brother Anthony of TaizéPublisher Parlor PressYear Published 2016Originally Published in Korea by Moonji Publishing in 2008 From moments when connecting with others feels challenging to those times when we unwind and dine in the comfort of our homes, our ordinary lives are composed of moments of joy, sadness, hope, and frustration. The fifty-eight poems in this collection, published over a span of fourteen years, depict these moments. As the title of this collection suggests, these moments free of sorrow shine through witty language. True, our daily lives may feel dreary at times, but the world captured in Shim Bo-Seon’s poetry will move even the weariest of hearts. ㅣ Catcalling [English] Author Lee SohoTranslator SojePublisher Open Letter BooksYear Published 2021Originally published in Korea by Minumsa in 2018 Winner of the 2018 Kim Su-Young Literary Award, Catcalling has made a significant impact with its direct accusations, revelations of sexual violence, and reflections on patriarchy. The language of the poems is straightforward, in which the narrator, Kyungjin, speaks of the daily psychological and verbal abuse she has suffered since childhood. She is able to confront her inner pain through the poetic frame and face this darkness head-on. From her poetry, sprout the invincible seeds of hope. ㅣ Autobiography of Death [English] Author Kim HyesoonTranslator Don-Mee ChoiPublisher New DirectionsYear Published 2018Originally published in Korea by Munhak Silhum in 2016 The forty-nine poems in this collection were written under the excruciating pain of trigeminal neuralgia. The poet explores the cycle of reincarnation, expressing the traumas of disasters that have shaped Korean society such as the Sewol Ferry Incident. These are poems of meditation and healing directed at those who have died unjustly, written while the poet herself was suffering from the piercing pain caused by her illness. ㅣ What is Darkening [English] Author Ra HeedukTranslator Choi JongyollPublisher Jain Publishing CompanyYear Published 2006Originally Published in Korea by Changbi in 2001 “What is Darkening” is one of the fifty-five poems contained in this collection. The poet’s focus lies on darkness and its sounds. As she listens to the approaching evening, the poet describes the sounds it makes and guides us on how to find healing through the sound of pain that emanates from darkness. But what is it that grows darker? It is the things returning to their rightful places. It is overcoming pain in the dark while preparing for a new beginning. The language of these poems, which employ darkness to talk about light is simply phenomenal. PI OK-HEE Pi Ok-hee is an insightful writer who offers a unique perspective on the world. With a diverse range of interests, she contributes to newspapers and magazines, delving into topics such as people, spaces, books, and travel. Beyond her journalistic endeavors, Pi Ok-hee excels as a ghostwriter, crafting captivating stories and providing content for corporate newsletters, speeches, and casebooks for both companies and public institutions.
This collection features various themes such as Korean literature, writers, events, education and research.