Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel (Hardcover)

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By Cho Nam-Joo, Jamie Chang (Translated by)
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Staff Reviews

In 1982, Kim Jiyoung was the most common name for girls in South Korea. That fact sets the story for this book. Central character Jiyoung represents the ‘everywoman’, including author Cho, who stated that she was able to write this book so quickly because it mirrored her own life in many ways. Given the positive response from the female readership in South Korea, it represents them as well. And I found myself identifying with Jiyoung more times than I like to admit. The male readership has been less than positive with many seeing it as an extension of the anti-man Me Too movement.

Yet this is not a raging, feminist, man-bashing novel. Instead it is a simple story of what it is like to be a woman in a traditionally patriarchal society. Cho does not use special circumstances to tell the story of Jiyoung. Rather she uses the everyday norms. Unwanted sexual attention from male colleague? Check. Unwanted physical attention from strangers on public transport? Check. You may find it hard to believe that a new mother could be called a ‘mum-roach’ (a name for new mothers who give up their jobs to raise children and are viewed as having an easy life living off their husbands) within earshot, until you learn that Cho herself experienced the situation. What makes this book hit home more are the footnotes – Cho uses official statistics to back up her story.

This book sold over a million copies. With its translation into English one can see that figure rising. This book does not rely on a complex story with twists and turns and explosions to work. Instead it is effective because of its simplicity. This book must be on everyone’s to read piles next year. I loved it. I could not put it down. I promise that you will love it, and that you won’t regret reading it.

— Hannah Reidell


A fierce international bestseller that launched Korea’s new feminist movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rigid misogyny.

Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person.

In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job—in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time—as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women—alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.

In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist—a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her—from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child—to put them first.

Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?

Rendered in minimalist yet lacerating prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sits at the center of our global #MeToo movement and announces the arrival of writer of international significance.

About the Author

Cho Nam-Joo was a television scriptwriter for nine years. Her debut novel, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, has sold in nineteen countries and over a million copies. She lives in Korea.

Jamie Chang is an award-winning translator and teaches at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea.

Praise For…

Already an international best-seller, television scriptwriter Cho’s debut novel has been credited with helping to ‘launch Korea’s new feminist movement.’ The fact that gender inequity is insidiously pervasive throughout the world will guarantee that this tale has immediate resonance, and its smoothly accessible, albeit British English vernacular–inclined, translation by award-winning translator Chang will ensure appreciative Anglophone audiences. Cho’s narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes).... Cho’s matter-of-fact delivery underscores the pervasive gender imbalance, while just containing the empathic rage. Her final chapter, “2016,” written as Jiyoung’s therapist’s report—his claims of being “aware” and “enlightened” only damning him further as an entitled troll—proves to be narrative genius.
— Terry Hong, Booklist [starred review]

Written with unbearably clear-sighted perspective, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 possesses the urgency and immediacy of the scariest horror thriller—except that this is not technically horror, but something closer to reportage. I broke out in a sweat reading this book.

— Ling Ma, author of Severance

I loved this novel. Kim Jiyoung’s life is made to seem at once totally commonplace and nightmarishly over-the-top. As you read, you constantly feel that revolutionary, electric shift between commonplace and nightmarish. This kind of imaginative work is so important and so powerful.
— Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

This is a book about the life of a woman living in Korea; the despair of an ordinary woman, which she takes for granted. The fact that it’s not about ‘someone special’ is extremely shocking, while also being incredibly relatable.
— Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman, in Yomiuri Shimbun

Product Details
ISBN: 9781631496707
ISBN-10: 1631496700
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: April 14th, 2020
Pages: 176
Language: English