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Must-Read Books by Korean Authors!

One of our goals for this year is to read more books, whether they’re short and sweet stories, heartfelt poems or long and thrilling novels – there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book!

So get out you reading list, because we’re sharing with you some Must Read Books by some of Korea’s most influential and up-and-coming authors.

 

The White Book by Han Kang

©한캉, 13.04.2018, asianews.network / rcwlitagency.com

Many people recognise Han Kang for her infamous and contradicting story The Vegetarian, which we picked up last year and could not put down. But towards the end of 2017, Kang published The White Book – a collection of the authors most personal and experimental works.

The narrator, which is Kang herself, reveals how she’s been haunted by the memory of her older sister – who died only a few hours after she was born. Deeply moving and extremely intimate, The White Book is unlike anything we’ve ever read, and by the time we finished reading it we felt lighter.

“In the spring, when I decided to write about white things, the first thing I did was make a list. Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon…With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me”.

 

Pachinko by Lee Min Jin

©이민진, 13.04.2018, goodreads.com / theidlewoman.net

Another book that moved us deeply was Pachinko, by the award winning author Lee Min Jin. This saga tells the story of a family that spans across four generations, beginning with a couple in Yeong-do, Korea, in 1911 and concluding with an old woman in Yokohama, Japan, in 1989.

Throughout Pachinko the characters are faced with many struggles, from the loss of loved ones to being exiled in a city that doesn’t want you – Lee addresses the heartache of war, immigration, family separation and the importance of cultural identity. Although it’s not a pleasant read the entire time, Pachinko is a beautiful story that will move the heart of any reader.

“History has failed us, but no matter.”

 

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Hwang Sun-mi

©황선미, 13.04.2018, thanhnien.vn.com / one-world.publications

Told through the eyes of a chicken named Sprout, Hwang Sun-mi’s fable The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly tells a story of loneliness, rejection, motherly love and devotion, freedom and the inevitable fact that there comes a time when you have to let go of the ones you love.

Fed up with her life of laying eggs, Sprout is determined to escape from her coup and be free of the demands of the farmers – her only wish is to hatch an egg of her own, without anyone taking it away from her.

One would think that a story about a chicken would be similar to a children’s book, but Hwang’s tale of Sprout and her struggles is one of the most moving things we have ever read – and we highly recommend keeping some tissues nearby.

“Sprout looked through the wide-open door, focusing on the world outside…She had no desire to lay another egg.”

 

Princess Bari by Hwang Sok-yong

©황석영, 13.04.2018, scribepublications / worldvoices.org

Hwang Seok-yong’s Princess Bari tells the story of a young girl who leaves her home in Chongjin, North Korea, in 1990.

Following Bari’s journey from China to London, this novel brings an old Korean legend, of an abandoned princess that travels to the end of the earth to find an elixir that can help dead souls find peace, into the modern world.

“Later, after our family was dispersed…my grandmother told me the story of Princess Bari, who’s name meant ‘abandoned’. She would always finish the story by singing the last lines to me: ‘Throw her out, the little throwaway. Cast her out, the little castaway'”.

 

Pink Ribbons by Joana A. Park

©Joana A. Park, 16.04.2018, inspiremekorea/ facebook

Finally, a book that we couldn’t tear ourselves from was the third book in the XO Series, Pink Ribbons.

This story follows Jojo, a bright woman who has been diagnosed with cancer, and shows how her best friend Charlie and her favourite musician Myeon help her through the most difficult time of her life. Pink Ribbons is a beautiful story of strength, bravery and, above all things, love.

Written by the charming and imaginative Joana A. Park, Pink Ribbons is based around her own experiences fighting cancer, and through Park’s beautiful words we see how she was able to overcome this difficult and painful time in her life with the help from her bias – Kim Jun-myeon, a.k.a EXO’s dedicated leader Suho.

[All proceed of this book will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation]

“Isn’t it crazy how three small words can make or break your existence? I love you, I hate you, You have cancer. In any circumstance in life, they are all hard to comprehend”.

Want to explore Korea? Download our free 72 Hours in Seoul Travel Guide here!

Feature Image Source: ©mariana-vusiatytska-180132-unsplash, 17.04.2018, unslapsh

Claudia Deborah (이보라)

Book-dealer by day—writer by night. Instant coffee, Thai food and trot (뽕짝) music get me through the day. "나 생명은 조금 심심하고 단순하지만 나 인생은 한 번이야. 그래서 저는 단순한 일상에 감사함을 느껴."

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2 COMMENTS
  • Stephanie Kip
    9 months ago

    Hi,
    Can you recommend any adult level books written by a Korean author during or about the Korean War era? Non-fiction is preferred by fiction is okay also.

    Thanks!

    • Claudia Deborah
      8 months ago
      AUTHOR

      Hey Stephanie,

      There are many fiction books set during the Korean War, interesting (and easy to get) ones are Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller, If You Leave Me by Kim Crystal Hana and The Surrendered by Lee Chang-rae. Although they’re works of fiction, all three portray the events and impact of that era very well.

      Hope this helps your quest for books~

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