Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Publisher: Scribner UK
Publication Date:
Length: 163 pages
Translated Fiction | Korean Fiction | Contemporary Fiction

CW: sexual assault

Kim Ji-young is the most common name for Korean women born in the 1980s.
Kim Ji-young is representative of her generation:

At home, she is an unfavoured sister to her princeling little brother.
In primary school, she is a girl who has to line up behind the boys at lunchtime.
In high school, she is a daughter whose father blames her for being harassed late at night.
In university, she is a good student who doesn’t get put forward for internships by her professor.
In the office, she is an exemplary employee who is overlooked for promotion by her manager.
At home, she is a wife who has given up her career to take care of her husband and her baby.

Kim Ji-young is depressed.
Kim Ji-young has started acting out.
Kim Ji-young is her own woman.
Kim Ji-young is insane.

Kim Ji-young is sent by her husband to a psychiatrist.This is his clinical assessment of the everywoman in contemporary Korea.



I can’t remember the last time that a book made me feel outraged, I don’t mean that the book is so terrible that it angered me – it’s an incredible read, but I just couldn’t believe the kind of thing that women still experience in modern day South Korea. It was incredibly eye-opening and I can easily see why it’s a huge discussion topic.

One of the reasons I had such a reaction to this book was because of how natural and genuine the characters felt. This didn’t feel like a work of fiction at all, it felt as though it was a biography. Straight away I was intrigued by Kim Jiyoung and wanted to know what had happened to her in the past that made her the way she is when she is first introduced to us. I also found her mother to be an interesting character, she seems to realise (albeit too late) that as a mother there was more that she could have done for her daughters. 

I was impressed by how much detail and plot was included in a book under 200 pages, jumping around to different times and focusing on all the key experiences in Kim Jiyoung’s life where her gender was a disadvantage to her or even dangerous at times. It was also the descriptions of these events that made the book feel like a biography as the details were so clear and realistic. I thought it was a nice touch to include real life statistics from journals to illustrate the points that Nam-Joo was making. It also really emphasised how, even though this is a work of fiction, the novel is heavily influenced by real life events and events that are happening to women even now. 

This is definitely a novel that will stay with me for a while: I always knew of the inequality between men and women in North East Asia, but knowing that it happens is very different to reading about what happens. It was also surprising to read how little Korean society has progressed for women over the years. I definitely recommend that you check this book out!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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