What are the best Korean books in English?

asked by Anonymous
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10 solutions
  1. 40

    #1Please Look After Mom  

    Please Look After Mom  

    Please Look After Mom is a Korean fiction novel by Kyung-Sook Shin which is translated into English by Chi-Young Kim. It is an international bestseller about a family's search for their mother which has sold over 1.5 million copies. 

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    Humberto Pacheco
    Written on April 26, 2018
    "I am really into the Korean culture, and I recently read the Korean novel Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I found the story to be deeply moving and it really hit home."
  2. 36

    #2The Vegetarian

    The Vegetarian

    The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a contemporary literary fiction novel originally published in October 2007. This book was translated into English by Deborah Smith. It won the Man Booker International Prize awards.

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    Sara Hansen
    Written on May 6, 2018
    "If I didn't know this book won awards and was highly praised by critics, I probably wouldn't give it the time of day. The title certainly doesn't pique one's curiosity. Reading about the premise, though, and reviewer comments, I have to say I'm curious now."
  3. 34

    #3Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is a book by Barbara Demick which follows the lives of six North Koreans over a span of fifteen years and exposes the closed world of North Korea. It was published in 2009 by Spiegel & Grau. 

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    Kenneth Moreno
    Written on April 21, 2018
    "Super interesting topic that I am fully intrigued by. With the current state of the political on goings of the Korean peninsula, I can think of no better way to get fully immersed into the lives of the typical Korean people."
  1. 32

    #4I'll Be Right There

    I'll Be Right There

    I'll Be Right There is a novel by Kyung-Sook Shin translated into English by Sora Kim-Russell. It is set in 1980s South Korea and follows the personal story and experiences of a girl in the middle of the political revolution. 

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    Raymond Aguilar
    Written on April 23, 2018
    "Set in the time of the 1980s Korean revolution, the book follows a highly literate Korean woman as she recounts her tragic personal history along with those of her friends. Yoon is not only literate, but intelligent, however during this time, these are things that dont matter and this book does an excellent job showing the struggle that comes with knowing this. "
  2. 30

    #5Land

    Land

    Land is a Korean fiction novel by Park Kyung-ni which is translated into English by Agnita Tennant. It follows the fortunes of Korean villagers set in a time of turbulence between the conservative and modernizing forces in Korea. 

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    Jacob Sullivan
    Written on May 1, 2018
    "An enthralling saga and panorama of Korean village life in the early 20th century (roughly 18951925) by that country's most highly acclaimed living novelist. The story, which possesses both the formal dimensions and the high seriousness of epic, is set in a period during which Japan held strong sway over Korea, regulating its business and industry and making arbitrary land grants to Japanese settlers. At the heart of the novel is a series of conflicts between Korean conservatives too enervated to oppose Japan's acquisitive energies and radical native insurgents. Their resistance culminated in the Dong Hak rebellion, a watershed historical event that casts long shadows over the intricately interwoven fates of Kyong-ni's vividly drawn characters--most especially Choi Chisoo, an arrogant, wealthy landowner, hated and envied by his neighbors and servants, and at continual odds with his embittered wife, whose ``failure'' to bear him a son provokes Choi's bitter displeasure and sets in motion a chain of events leading to his downfall. The author employs a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs structure, in which nondescript villagers and assorted second-class citizens observe, comment on, and in some ways parallel the lives of their ``betters.'' Among the most memorable are Pyongsan, an impoverished landowner waiting patiently through half a lifetime to be revenged on the avaricious Choi; the handsome villager Yongi; and the scheming Guinyo, the ambitious housemaid whose plan to rise above her station precipitates chaos, losses, and death, and drives the story to its stunning, tragic conclusion. The energy of melodrama surges through this big novel, yet as a portrait of a culture and a knowing psychological tale of the social and personal consequences of rigidly enforced class differences, it's a work of high literary distinction as well. A much-beloved work in Korea (where it was made into an equally popular television series) that should find many grateful admirers in America as well."
  3. 27

    #6The Guest: A Novel

    The Guest: A Novel

    The Guest: A Novel is a Korean historical fiction novel by Hwang Sok-yong which is translated by Kyung-Ja Chun and Maya West. It is set during the Korean War and tells the story of a people haunted by a painful past.

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    Megan Kelley
    Written on April 25, 2018
    "The Guest: A Novel is a wonderfully translated Koran historical fiction novel. It really gives the reader insight to the life and times of the Korean war from a different perspective than the one we usually see in the Occidental world. Definitely among the best Korean books translated to English that I've ever read. "
  4. 26

    #7Ten Thousand Lives (Green Integer)

    Ten Thousand Lives (Green Integer)

    Ten Thousand Lives is a book of poetry by Ko Un which is translated into English by Gary Gach. It is Ko Un's major ongoing work which he began during his imprisonment, and which aims to describe every person he has ever met.

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    Aanya Mukopadhyay
    Written on April 23, 2018
    "Although not a "feel good" book, I'd say recommended reading. While in prison, Ko Un decides to write a poem about every person he's ever met. Intriguing? Yep. This is just the tip of the iceberg with this book."
  5. 25

    #8Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

    Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

    Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West is a nonfiction book by Blaine Harden which documents the shocking true story of a North Korean political prisoner and his escape to freedom. 

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    Teresa Hamilton
    Written on April 26, 2018
    "What a heart-wrenching book, I couldn't put it down. Escape Camp 14 documents a lot of horrors of a man who was imprisoned, but escaped to freedom. This book really makes you think about how lucky we are to live in a free country and to have food/water readily available. This book really delves into North Korea's disgusting dictatorship. "
  6. 23

    #9One Hundred Shadows

    One Hundred Shadows

    One Hundred Shadows is a Korean fiction novel by Hwang Jungeun which is translated into English by Jung Yewon. It follows the relationship of Eungyo and Mujae, two repair shop assistants working in an area set for demolition in Seoul.

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  7. 20

    #10Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty

    Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty
    Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty is a nonfiction book by Bradley K. Martin which closely examines Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, two of the most ruthless and Orwellian leaders of North Korea. 
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