Cover Image: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

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Member Reviews

This book draws you in and stuns you from beginning to the completely shocking end. My only complaint is that it is short. But then again the author fit a thousand thoughts and behaviors into it. 

As a woman in her 60s, it astounds me that women have not moved very far in this male dominated world. Yet I still have hope for my sister warriors.

The book and its writer are exquisite.
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This should be essential reading not only for any female or female-identifying folks, but also for the problematic men who don't think feminism is valid. It's easy to see how this novel could have sparked such a fierce debate in South Korea about intersectional feminism and women's rights.

Some may find it dry or may feel like the plot doesn't completely resolve, but I loved the format of this work; the narrative is interspersed with different notes, facts, figures, and citations from journals and news sources. The final section of the novel is both eye-opening and devastating and further emphasizes how effective the framework is.
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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was an interesting book to read. I visited South Korea last summer, and one of my friends I met there said that this was a really good book. When I saw that it was being published in English, I knew I had to read it. And I did. 
The book itself was pretty interesting. I liked how the life of a fictional woman was backed up by real-life statistics and studies, something I've never seen before in fiction. And while you are reading, you learn more about the character as well as the struggles often faced by Korean women. And then, that ending! 
Overall, this was a good book. While not my favorite, it's a great conversation starter and would be a great read for book clubs. There are some really interesting feminist topics, like sexism, motherhood, pay gaps, and marriage. This book is pretty short, but definitely packs a punch.
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3.5 stars
A quick-moving account of a typical Korean woman’s life in all of its misogynistic trappings.  For American readers, the scenarios of such blatant systemic gender inequality feel outdated by several decades; however, based on the Korean reviews and the impact the book has had in its home country, the issue is quite real and quite current there. The combination of documented statistics and a fictional tale as well as the overt tone of a manifesto feel a bit heavy-handed, but again, this could be a cultural divide. The book is well-worth the short amount of time it takes to read.
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I couldn’t put this book down. It is a fascinating glimpse into Korean society and the lives of Korean women, with a focus on an average woman and her struggles in school, the workplace and in marriage and motherhood with a pervasive misogyny. The matter-of-fact tone and statistical citations really contributed to the power of this book for me. Excellent, captivating read.
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This book hit a nerve when published in South Korea and rightly so! This intriguing and original novella captures the anger and frustration that Korean women have endured under male oppression. It may have been written towards Korean women but any woman who reads will identify with the misogyny and double standards women deal with. This imaginative and revolutionary doesn't tell a powerful story of one woman. It tells the necessary story of every woman.
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This was an interesting story with factual information about misogyny in South Korea interwoven throughout. I enjoyed seeing the implications of gender inequality addressed from so many different angles and on so many levels, while at the same time feeling disheartened by how much women have to struggle in Korea. This book is definitely an eye-opener and I'm glad I read it. I will definitely be recommending this.
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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was simultaneously the best and most infuriating book I have read so far this year.

By best I mean:

The writing style was super interesting and something I'd never read before. The story was compelling and I didn't want to put it down once I picked it up. And the characters were (sometimes unfortunately) completely believable.

By most infuriating I mean:

Men suck and women should have more rights.

This book may be primarily geared towards the South Korean woman, but I maintain this has something that will speak to every woman and I'm so glad it's been translated to English.
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Wow... What a storyline! I have to tell you when I started to read this book I was not sure how I felt. By mid I wear totally intrigued and engaging in the storyline. The end made me remember this book saying... Wow, what I just have read was just not any book, but a fascinating one!
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I received a free digital copy in exchange for my honest review.

Feminist novella about the life of a typical woman in a deeply patriarchal society of South Korea. This was a powerful read for me because I am Korean-American and can relate so much to the MC. While I did not grow up in Korea, I was definitely raised in a very traditional “Korean” mindset where women should be quiet, follow orders and support men. This is something I still struggle with. Not because I want to be loud, disruptive or unsupportive, but because I want to have a voice without fear of judgement. And because of this, my every day thoughts and actions are constantly being weighed. Am I being rude? Am I leading this person on? Am I being selfish? It is exhausting. And that is what the author shows us through Kim Ji-Young. The exhausting life of a female living in South Korea.

There are cultural nuances that get lost in translation and therefore, there were times this novel felt distant and dry. However, I can see why this was such a bestseller. Provocative and daring, I think it should be read by everyone – women and men, alike. 

I’ll be picking up the original Korean version of this. I suspect it will be even more powerful.
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One day, Jiyoung speaks in the voice of another woman. The next day, she speaks in yet another woman’s voice. When Jiyoung’s strange ventriloquism doesn’t go away, her husband sends her to a psychiatrist to find out what’s young. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, by Cho Nam-Joo (and translated by Jamie Chang), is the document her psychiatrist created after speaking with Jiyoung—complete with footnotes to relevant news articles and government statistics. The result is the portrait of an everywoman in modern Korea (albeit one who occasionally speaks in someone else’s voice).

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 presents a society that is slowly, painfully waking up to the inequalities between men and women. After a brief introduction that explains why Jiyoung is talking to a psychiatrist, the narrative takes us back to her childhood. She grew up in a smallish family. Her father was the main source of income, although her mother worked at a series of side jobs while taking care of three children and the home. Jiyoung’s paternal grandmother lives with them, always shown advocating for her grandson to have the most and the best of everything. In school, little acts of sexism further confine Jiyoung’s world. Girls have to dress conservatively, not go walking alone, stay in at night, etc. so that nothing happens to them. After college, Jiyoung has a hard time getting a job because all the best spots go to men and because all the employers expect young women to quit as soon as they become pregnant.

The only surprising thing in this novel is Jiyoung’s other voices. All the other moments of rebellion come from others who get fed up with the way things are. Jiyoung sometimes benefits from these forerunners but, mostly, she hits metaphorical walls over and over again. The result of Jiyoung’s inability to get a better job or share more responsibility for her home and child with her husband is a feeling of disgruntled helplessness. Other characters—sometimes “woke” men—will admit that things aren’t fair. But, invariably, they shrug and nothing changes.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is a book that holds a mirror up to Korean society. For American readers, this excellently translated story is an opportunity to compare how far (or not) our society has come since the 1970s. It is short, easily digested, and should make readers of any nationality utterly livid about the unspoken limits that are put on women, from their girlhood through middle-age.
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This book reminded  of feminist books written in the United States in the nineteen sixties.   Formalized  discrimination against women is ending and women are entering the work force.    Women are questioning whether to they should stay in the workforce after they have children.

Sadly, the author does connect clearly Kim Jiyong's mental illness with the low status of women.   I say sadly because I believe many women in the US  suffer emotional pain when men are given unspoken advantages(I believe men are still receive favored treatment in the work force in  the United States).

I liked the later parts of the part of the book better when Kim Jiyoung is struggling to raise her daughter. I also liked her psychiatrist notes when the psychiatrist describes some of his wife struggle with both motherhood and her career.   Both Kim Jiyoung and the psychiatrist's wife come across as genuine and authentic women; many characters I read about in modern "serious" American literature seem to lead such charmed lives that I can't relate to the characters.
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Diagnosis: Murder

** Trigger warning for misogyny and violence against women, including sexual assault. **

“The girls stowed away repulsive, frightening experiences with males deep in their hearts without even realising it themselves.”

“Jiyoung was standing in the middle of a labyrinth. Conscientiously and calmly, she was searching for a way out that didn’t exist to begin with.”

“Jiyoung did not feel good as she checked ‘NO’ with her own hand. The world had changed a great deal, but the little rules, contracts and customs had not, which meant the world hadn’t actually changed at all.”

Kim Jiyoung lives in a small apartment on the outskirts of Seoul with her husband, Jung Daehyun, and her baby daughter Jung Jiwon. A middle child who grew up in a working class family, Jiyoung attended university and landed a job at a small marketing agency after graduation. One of just a handful of women, she enjoyed her work well enough but quit after just a few years to have and raise Jiwon. 

About a year after Jiwon’s birth, Jiyoung started exhibiting strange symptoms: she would “become” other people. Always women, always known to her, both living and dead: for example, her own mother, Oh Misook, or Cha Seungyeon, a mutual college friend of both Jiyoung and Daehyun who died in childbirth. Alarmed, Daehyun sought the help of a psychiatrist; Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is presented as the doctor’s case study of Jiyoung.

KIM JIYOUNG, BORN 1982 is basically a laundry list of the misogynist slights that Korean women – and especially Korean mothers – are subjected to, both historically and in contemporary society. (Ditto: women who dare to live and breathe and exist in *any* patriarchal society. As someone born and raised in the United States, I found roughly 97.8% of Jiyoung’s experiences easily translatable across cultures.) Even as I explain the plot this way, it seems like KIM JIYOUNG, BORN 1982 should make for a fairly tedious read; and yet, it’s anything but.

As Jiyoung’s psychiatrist traces a path through her early childhood, high school and university years, marriage, and motherhood, we’re forced to bear witness as a young girl’s spirit is beaten down, degraded, and eroded – just like her mother’s and grandmother’s before her – while, as outsiders looking in, we are powerless to stop it. We are watching a murder: psychological, emotional, psychic, spiritual. A death by a million cuts: some tiny, others not so much. Intergenerational trauma galore. 

There are the “smaller” microaggressions, such as how the boys are always allowed to go first: served the first (and best) portions of food at home, or permitted to do their presentations first at school. Then there’s the bigger stuff: gender discrimination in hiring and pay; limited career opportunities and pink collar jobs; sex-selective abortion; the indoctrination into rape culture, starting in elementary school; sexual harassment and assault; the pressure to have children; and the simultaneous idolization and vilification of stay-at-home moms. 

When Jiyoung finally “snaps,” you’ll wonder why it took so long. Her adoption of other personas isn’t the disease, but rather a symptom: of a society that dismisses, denigrates, devalues, and outright hates women. Only by becoming other women can she challenge the status quo. They function as Jiyoung’s protectors, when Jiyoung is barred from protecting herself. (Sometimes.)

The coup de grace is the psychiatrist’s personal notes at the end, wherein he recounts his own wife’s struggles, thus positioning himself as the rare male beast, better suited to understanding Jiyoung’s predicament than most. Mansplaining meets “not all men,” while completely and utterly failing to help either beleaguered woman. It’s enough to make you wonder why Jiyoung didn’t opt for a female psychiatrist … but only if you missed the entire point of the book.
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What an amazing book. 

In only 176 pages, Cho has created a complex, honest, and unflinching story of womanhood in South Korea. After Kim Jiyoung begins precisely impersonating family members and acquaintances, her husband become concerned. The narrative then switches to tell Jiyoung's story, from growing up in a family that struggled to make ends meet, to going to college and gaining some independence. Jiyoung's experiences as a young girl and woman parallel experiences of women in South Korea, and around the world. The preference for men, and their dominance in all aspects of life is woven throughout the story in both subtle and blatant ways that are all to common to me, as a woman myself.

It was quite interesting to learn more about the specifics of sexism and misogyny in Korean society. I knew South Korea is much more conservative and "behind" in terms of gender equality and equity, but it was eye-opening to read about these specific situations that are so heavily informed by Korean culture. 

I also LOVED how Cho backs up her points with statistics and research, even adding footnotes for certain facts. I think this is a great choice, both to back up what she is saying and to convince those who might read these story and think "oh, this is just a piece of fiction. No woman's life is exactly like this!" Cho shows that yes, these experiences are universal for women in South Korea, and should not be ignored. She points out the injustice that women face every day through the experiences that Jiyoung goes through and large life questions that Jiyoung faces. 

This book is powerful and moving, and the ending.. the ending is perfect! It is clear that Cho is an astounding author. This book is put together as if a clean-running machine—there are no extraneous parts or bits of fluff added. Everything flows smoothly, working together to create what is at once a beautiful, emotional character study, and a harsh admonition of the state of feminism and gender equality in South Korea. I hope this book will break out when it is published in the US, and that Cho will receive the same global acclaim that other female Korean authors like Han Kang have received. Cho's work is amazing, and I hope that more of her books will be translated to English ASAP!
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A wonderful, enlightening novel about the life of an average Korean woman. While Korean society and culture may differ in some ways, the experience of women in developed countries have many more similarities than differences. Kim Jiyoung in the book wouldn't call herself a feminist, she is not out advocating for women's lib, but she cannot escape the harsh reality of simply trying to exist as a woman. From having less attention paid to her and more housework to do as a girl child and not a son, to school with its double standards for male and female behavior, to college, the workforce, dating, marriage and motherhood, this book shows how women are affected in ways both small and large by a society that doesn't value them. Many of the experiences of Jiyoung are backed up with citations to show that artistic license is not being taken and that this story is representative of many women. Written in a very straightforward manner this book is easy to read and very engrossing. Most women will find at least one of Jiyoung's experiences parallel to hers and many men will as well. For those who doubt women's lived experience hopefully it will open their eyes and for everyone else there may be some sad comfort in knowing they are not alone.
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This book was so fascinating! It has been a while since I've read anything this good. It is different and kept me intrigued the entire time! 

I wasn't sure what to expect but I was not disappointed. I could definitely see this as a movie! I cannot wait to read more from this author.
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I've heard about this book for years—occasional Korean news articles citing this book would pop up, kpop celebrities like SNSD and BTS would talk about it—so the moment I saw I could request the ARC, I jumped on it. 

This book was a recent phenomenon in South Korea, spurring a nationwide debate on feminism. It follows the life of the titular protagonist, beginning with her sudden mental breakdown, where she seems to be possessed by various women. Her husband gets her an appointment with a psychologist, and from there, we learn about the life of Kim Jiyoung. 

Over the course of the novel, we follow the various ways misogyny has impacted her: being born female to a family desperately hoping for a son, being subjected to sexual harassment even as a young student, struggling to be seen as a valid contributor in a male-dominated workplace, being brandished a "mumroach" by strangers when she and her husband mutually decide it was better for their finances for her to be a stay-at-home mother—amongst many other things. 

It was a thought-provoking book, and I'm glad to have read it. I found it interesting that there were footnotes throughout where the author cited her references. This was my first time seeing a novel with academic referencing! I have no idea if this is more commonplace for Korean novels, but I was surprised at first, only to eventually get used to it, if not outright appreciate the effort put into backing up the story with real-life facts and statistics. 

The ending was the perfect killing strike, if you ask me. No spoilers, but it made perfect sense, and I couldn't see the book ending any other way. 

Admittedly, on the prose side of things, this isn't perfect. It can be a very dry read, heavy on telling versus showing, and I do think  the translator dropped the ball on certain words they left untranslated (I don't expect the book to be scrubbed clean of Korean words, to be clear—but things like jeonse would be written just as that, with very little clues as to its meaning. I'm familiar with the term, but I wonder if the typical English reader picking up this book would be able to glean the meaning from context alone).

But I think the book is still very easily accessible to people all around the world. Yes, the focus is on the way Korean society has systematically made it difficult for their women to thrive and succeed without judgment—but there will be much for even a Western reader to relate to. Being told that a boy bullying you is a sign he likes you, and so you should put up with it, and even be happy about it, just as a minor example. Some experiences are unfortunately shared by strangers all around the world. If nothing else, this book is an excellent reminder that there are many ways society has failed us all, and that there's much work to be done to make it a better place for everyone.
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I just watched Parasite recently ehich focuses on the social class differences in South Korea, so it made sense to me to read this book about the social injustices woman have faced and still face there. The writing style was very matter of fact and read more like a memoir than a novel but I think that was the point. I think this book will help people outside of South Korea understand the terrible sexism that South Korean women deal with and have dealt with for a long time.
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This was brilliant. The detached, factual writing style will not be for everyone, but for me it was the perfect means of conveying the numbing horror and pervasiveness of misogyny.
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The book throws light on the blatant sexism and misogyny faced by women in Korea, something most women experience to varying degrees. It's an important story that many women will relate to, while men will be able to get an insight into what life is like for women. Though I certainly feel that this story needs to be told, I was underwhelmed by the writing and felt detached from the lead character, despite being a woman myself. It felt like I was merely reading a report of Kim Jiyoung's experiences, without really getting to see it through her eyes. Maybe this was intentional, as it is a summary from a male psychiatrist. Also, it was an English translation of the original, so I don't know if any of it was lost in translation.
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