Tag: Korean author

Juhea Kim’s—Beasts of the little land *****

Juhea Kim’s—Beasts of the little land *****

In 1919 Pyongyang, Jade is sold to Madam Silver who will train her as a courtesan. But when Madam Silver’s daughter, Luna is raped, she sends Luna, Lotus, and Jade to her cousin, Dani in Seoul to hide Luna’s pregnancy. Aunt Dani continues their training while JungHo heads south to Seoul in search of a better life after his father’s death. Under Japanese occupation, underground movements form in the hope of gaining independence. 

This novel takes place over fifty years following the lives of these characters and Korea’s struggle to break free from Japan’s strangling grip.

Eugenia Kim’s — The Calligrapher’s Daughter *****

Eugenia Kim’s — The Calligrapher’s Daughter *****

Najin doesn’t want to live a traditional Korean life, but her father tries to force her into a marriage with an aristocratic family. Her mother, defying the traditional obedient wife, arranges a position for her daughter in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. With Japan’s control over the country and the dying monarchy, Najin’s life becomes oppressive. When she unexpectedly finds love, they are soon separated and she must face Japan’s attack on China and Pearl Harbour while her husband is an ocean away.

Krys Lee’s — How I became a North Korean *****

Krys Lee’s — How I became a North Korean *****

This is the haunting story of Danny (Daehan), Yongju and Jangmi. Desperate to avoid his U.S. school where he is an outcast because he is Chinese, Danny leaves his father and flies to China to stay with his mother. But when he discovers her living with another man, he wanders aimlessly close to the border with North Korea.

Yongju and Jangmi have both escaped separately from North Korea to China, and meet up with Danny and a band of other North Koreans hiding in a cave. They are rescued by a Christian pastor who holds them captive. He indoctrinates them into the Christian faith, promising he’ll help them leave China for a safe third country. But will he? 

This novel is a powerful insight into life in North Korea and the dangers that lurk across the boarder into China from those who profit from runaway North Koreans.

Han Kang’s — Human acts *****

Han Kang’s — Human acts *****

Through the voices of her characters, Han Kang recounts the Gwangju uprising against continued repressive South Korean governments from Park Chung-hee’s stronghold to Chun Doo-hwan — another army general who assassinated Park. The army is brought in and fires indiscriminately at demonstrators. Our journey begins with the collection of bodies and parents trying to identify their children. Decades later, we learn that the after effects of this tragedy still linger.

This is not a novel for the faint at heart. It hits hard with real facts, and the writing is powerful. I’m impressed by a translation that didn’t seem to water down the emotional repercussions or gory details.