Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Contemporary, 176 pages, published in 2016

After quitting her job to have a baby and be a full time mother, Kim Jiyoung starts flawlessly impersonating other women. Her concerned husband sends her to a male psychartist in order to get this odd behavior checked out.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: sexism, sexual harassment, depression

I have been so excited to review this book because I had such strong feelings towards it! I randomly saw it and was intrigued by the cover, so I read the blurb and was sold.

I know this book is not going to be for everyone. The story follows fictional Kim Jiyoung’s life, but there are so many instances in her life that many women can relate to and see themselves in. This book feels kind of like a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, because there are occasional footnotes with sources for facts. I don’t really feel like I got to know Kim Jiyoung as an individual, but that was kind of the point because the story is more about her experience as a woman growing up in South Korea than it is about her as a person.

As Kim Jiyoung grows up, the reader gets to see all the ways that she is discriminated against, both ingrained in the system and culture and overtly. She has a brother who constantly gets new things and even more food, while she gets secondhand items. She and her peers have to fight their way to just getting the same treatment as the boys in her class.

The world has changed a great deal, but the little rules, contracts, and customs had not, which meant the world hadn’t actually changed at all.

-pg. 119

I think one reason why this book impacted me so much is because it just feels so validating to see that others have experienced things that you have experienced (and fear). Kim Jiyoung enjoys her career, but ultimately has to give it up in order to be a mother, but by doing so, she loses respect from almost everyone around her, even though it wasn’t even necessarily her desire to have a child.

I am not Korean and I’m not super knowledgeable about what it’s like to actually live in South Korea, but I think this book does a good job of showing what a woman’s life is like in South Korea, or at least a peak into what it could be like. Not only are women harassed and judged by their male peers, but they are also pressured by female relatives and friends to conform to the standards of society.

The ending of this book literally gave me chills. I won’t say what it was, but I still think about it all the time.

This is one of the only translated works I have read, and I think the translation was good! I saw some reviews saying that things got lost in translation, but I don’t feel that way.

I just saw that a movie was made out of this book and I definitely plan to watch it! I’m curious to see what was changed since the format of this book doesn’t seem super conducive to making a movie.

I really think more people should read this, especially since the English translation just came out this year. This book is a massive hit in South Korea, becoming the most borrowed book from the library in 2018 and 2019. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most important feminist novels in Korean. It is quite short and easy to read, but either way, I think the impact is worth it.

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2 thoughts on “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

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