SOS Book Club Pick: Kim JiYoung, Born 1982

A heartbreaking exploration of gender inequality and societal expectations in contemporary South Korea, “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982 gives voice to many generations of women subjected to sexism and misogyny. Let’s dig into the details of this iconic book.

About the South of Seoul Book Club

If you are familiar with the series, skip ahead to learn more about “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982.”

Looking for book recommendations? Welcome to the South of Seoul book club. We recommend a book every month. Such recommended books explore topics like 1) South Korean history or culture, 2) the complexity of cross-cultural life, 4) the exploration of life within the diaspora experience, and 5) lenses on Korean culture around the world.

Commitment to Accessibility

South of Seoul volunteers take book accessibility into consideration when recommending titles. We consider:

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  • Purchasable in English In Korea: Many translated titles can’t actually be purchased in English in Korea,
  • Audio Version Available: Many people find audiobooks easier to consume.
  • Online Versions.: International residents can’t afford to travel with many books. Also, many books may not be available in digital form from within Korea.

Commitment to Diverse Lived Experiences

South of Seoul volunteers seek to put lived experiences at the forefront of their recommendation choices. When considering authors we look for such things as:

  • Korean authors writing about their lived experiences in Korea.
  • International residents writing about their lived experiences in South Korea.
  • Ethnic Koreans writing about their lived experience in other countries.

Reading about Korean culture from a variety of perspectives may provide readers with a greater understanding of the country and culture.

Commitment to Supporting Mental Health

South of Seoul also includes book recommendations that support the lives and mental health of our community. This means that books may tackle the issues relationships, and more.

Book Recommendation By Melissa Edwards-Whittington

December’s South of Seoul Book Club recommendation, “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982” is brought to you by Melissa Edwards-Whittington of the KimchiRednecks. Edwards-Whittington has lived in Korea since 2017. She and her husband, Chuck, formed the KimchiRednecks YouTube channel to give people living outside of Korea or those coming to Korea, a glimpse of life here in Korea. Together with their three shih tzus, they post weekly videos about places to eat, things to cook, places to visit, or life in general living in Korea.

kim jiyoung

About The Author of “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982”

Cho Nam-joo is a Korean writer and author, best known for the novel “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982” published in 2016. Born in Seoul in 1978, she studied sociology in Ewha Womans University. Then, she began her career in television as a scriptwriter and published two novels prior to “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982.” Cho left her job to raise her child, but found it difficult to return to work after this absence. Therefore, she began collecting data and articles, eventually crafting this novel about an average Korean woman. The novel has been translated in 18 languages and sold more than one million copies. Also, in 2019, it was made into a movie starring Jung Yu-mi.

My Experience Reading “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982”

Despite being a Korean context of the novel, “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982” is a relatable story for many women. The book chronicles the life of a depressed mother who has quit her job to raise her child and feels she is without purpose. After having the baby, her husband notices episodes where she develops a unique mental illness, resembling the personalities, mannerisms, and speech of other women. As she sinks into the psychosis, her husband sends her to a male therapist for help. At this point, we learn about her life from a child to adulthood.

Kim Jiyoung is a great example of the problems and unfair treatment that many women in South Korea (and around the world) face. The book talks about things like gender inequality, societal norms, and how hard it is to balance work and home life. Also, it makes a strong social statement about things like sexism, gender roles, racism, and the stresses of being a mother.

More Commentary And Reviews On “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982”

The above review contains my thoughts and opinions. However, make sure to read other reviews to have a more rounded perspective toward the book. We all come to each story with our own social/cultural lens. Therefore, others may have perceived this book in a different manner and may help you decide if this is the book for you.

NY Times Book Review

You can purchase Kim JiYoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo in English on Amazon.

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Find More Book Club Recommendations

Did you like this recommendation? Be sure to explore our other volunteer-recommended books.

South of Seoul Book Club List for 2023