Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo, review by Hannah Reidell

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-male 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” pile 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.


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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel Cover Image
By Cho Nam-Joo, Jamie Chang (Translated by)
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ISBN: 9781631496707
Availability: Out of Print, and unable to order.
Published: Liveright - April 14th, 2020