Must Read Korean Novels
Ask anyone with at least an eye for world literature which countries publish the most groundbreaking novels and they will likely mention South Korea.
Korean novels often bend and break genres, often exploring untouched social and political issues, and speaking to our souls.
Discover 10 Korean novels, from bizarre tales of dark tourism and vegetarianism to poignant political commentary and themes of surviving trauma that will have you pondering life long after their final pages have ended.
- Kim Ji-Young was born in 1982 to Cho Nam Joo
Kim Jiyoung is an ordinary woman adorned with a common first name – the most common name in South Korea in 1982, the year of her birth.
She lives in Seoul with her husband, three years her senior, and her granddaughter. She has a job that she loves but has to quit to raise her child. And then one day she starts speaking in the voices of other women. What could have happened to him?
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Early 1930s: In a small Korean village, young Sunja is seduced by the kind words and loving attentions of a wealthy foreigner. When she finds out that she is pregnant and that her lover is already married, she is faced with a choice: like so many other young women in her situation, to become a second wife, a “Korean wife” or to support her family. the dishonor.
She will choose a third path: marriage to Isak, a Christian pastor she hardly knows, who offers her a new life in Japan. This decision is the starting point of a painful exile that will span eight decades and four generations.
- About My Daughter by Kim Hye-Jin
In contemporary Seoul, a struggling 30-year-old asks her mother to take her home for a while. The latter reluctantly agrees: her daughter doesn’t want to settle down alone, but with her partner. In this camera, a climate of uneasiness is immediately created between the three women.
The mother suffers from the incomprehensible nature of this couple in her eyes. She vacillates between shame and anger at a way of life that she disapproves of, denying Korean traditions of marriage and family. When the daughter’s ideals collide with the mother’s sense of decency, is reconciliation even possible?
- On a Clear Night by Kim Yi-Sak
The illegitimate daughter of a Seoul prefect dignitary – a well-read, young, brave, determined heroine – holds the positions of midwife and coroner. She is called in to investigate a bizarre series of seemingly unrelated murders.
One night, while secretly exhuming a corpse for an autopsy that was denied to her, she meets a young official who is none other than King Taejong’s hidden son…
- Han Kang’s vegetarians
The vegetarian is a triptych. Around Yonghye, the woman who wants to become a vegetable, we follow her husband, an ordinary little manager, then his brother-in-law, a video artist obsessed with Yonghye’s Mongolian taint, and finally Yonghye’s sister, who assists in her final moments, and in some ways surpasses them.
Three parts, three characters around a single one that itself is inexorably fading.
You will live through all the emotions with these novels by 100% South Korean authors! Whether you’re a thriller or a slice of life type, there’s something for everyone.
Which one excites you?