Recently I finished reading Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Namjoo. I heard about the book sometime in late 2016/early 2017, and I really wanted to read it, but there wasn’t an English translation at the time and my Korean wasn’t (still isn’t really) at a place where I could comfortably read Korean novels and understand everything. I was tempted to just buy the Korean version. Recently, I was so ecstatic to learn that the translated English version was coming out and I quickly preordered it.
The novel is about an average woman with a common name, Kim Jiyoung. The story follows her rather ordinary life from adolescent to adulthood, and how it was affected by a patriarchal society. The author uses statistics throughout the book to back up some of the moments that happen to Jiyoung. Sometimes it might feel like you’re going through a textbook or research article, but I think it helped the novel to support its main point. Even though the story is fictional, what Jiyoung experienced are still very real things.
The story is short and I read it during breaks at work, although I probably could’ve finished in an hour or so. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I still felt frustrated at Jiyoung’s psychiatrist and his ending comments. While the novel is set in and is about Korea, I think at its core the story can be relatable for any woman in any society.
Reading this book and knowing things like the Nth room incidents (there’s a lot involved in this case that’s disturbing, so if you’re easily triggered please be careful when reading articles about it) have been going on recently feels disheartening. While it’s good to know there has been improvements for women in Korea, and women in general too, I think it’s also important to remember there are still things that need to be fixed. There’ll probably always will be.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I’m glad I was able to read it after all this time! However, there were some parts of the book where I felt the translation was awkward, but since I don’t have the novel in Korean, I can’t really try to cross reference. (Guess that just means I’ll still have to get the Korean version!)
Have you read Kim Jiyoung or are you interested in reading it?