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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

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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

163 pages, Hardcover

First published October 14, 2016

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About the author

Cho Nam-Joo

15 books1,063 followers
Associated Names:
* 조남주 (Korean)
* Cho Nam-Joo (English)
* 趙南柱 (Chinese)
* โชนัมจู (Thai)

Cho Nam-joo is a former television scriptwriter. In the writing of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 she drew partly on her own experience as a woman who quit her job to stay at home after giving birth to a child.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is her third novel. It has had a profound impact on gender inequality and discrimination in Korean society, and has been translated into 18 languages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,986 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
April 21, 2020
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.

4 1/2 stars. There is some seriously weird and awesome art coming out of South Korea these days. From the weirder stuff (The Vegetarian, IMO) to the fabulous (Parasite - highly recommended) to this latest novella that packs a serious punch. It really makes me wonder how many other gems there are that never made it to translation.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is an unusual book and I can see right now how it won't be for everyone. It's a strange combination of fiction and facts, including footnotes referencing actual data on women in the workplace, housewives, the hoju system, and abortion. What it really is, for me, is a novelization of a true story; the true story of gender inequality in Korea.

It starts very odd, not unlike Han Kang's The Vegetarian, with a man observing his wife, Kim Jiyoung, exhibiting some very unusual behaviour. Sometimes she will talk like she is someone else, or make inappropriate comments while they are visiting family. Where has this come from? She never used to behave like this-- what happened to her?

Then we go back in time and follow Jiyoung through the story of her life. We see her put everything she has into becoming a working woman with her own income. We see her met with challenge after challenge; rejection after rejection. We see her living in fear of predatory boys and handsy teachers. We see fetuses being aborted for being the wrong gender and women's bodies becoming the subject of job interview questions.
Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be “ladylike.” That it’s your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It’s your fault for not noticing and not avoiding.

I don't know if some people can read this book and not be angry, but I was furious. I felt like I was almost visibly shaking while reading about Kim Jiyoung and the women around her. Do not read this book if you're looking for a light, feel-good read.

There are so many interesting topics packed into this teeny tiny book. Another aspect I enjoyed was the portrayal of Kim Jiyoung's mother. It must have been so hard to be a mother in this in-between. To have grown up in a time when women were given no choices or opportunities and to try to raise daughters in a world where they do have some choices, but prejudices and gendered abuse still hold them back. Do you push them for better? Or do you set realistic expectations?

I think the only thing I didn't love was how weird this book is in the beginning and again at the end. It could just be a cultural style that I don't really "get", but I think this is a fantastic portrait of a woman's life and the situation was more than sympathetic enough without Jiyoung's bizarre breakdown.

Still, you should absolutely read it if you can stomach more stories about how very unfair this world has been, and often still is, for women.

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Profile Image for Meike.
1,445 reviews2,179 followers
February 18, 2021
This novella hit a nerve in South Korea and became one of the biggest-selling books of the new century. In it, Cho Nam-Joo tells the story of a Korean everywoman from her birth in 1982 until 2016, the year the book was published in its original Korean. Kim Ji-young experiences systemic misogyny in all stages of life, be it as a kid in her own family, in school and at university, in the workplace and also as a wife and mother. The protagonist does not only suffer because of stereotypical women-hating machos (although they also feature in the text), but there's a whole web of factors, attitudes and implications that affect all characters differently, from the education system to the economic crisis, from conservative gender roles to questions of agency related to intersectional feminism. An overall feeling of powerlessness and internalized societal norms lead to self-alienation and to female trauma that is inherited over generations: When Kim Ji-young is born, her mother apologises to her mother-in-law for having a girl. When Kim Ji-young is pregnant with a girl, people feel sorry for her and try to cheer her up. Being a woman means being a failure.

The book led to a fierce debate about sexism in Korea. Some months before its publication, the "Gangnam murder" shook up the country: A woman was murdered at a metro station, and the perpetrator stated that he had been ignored by women for so long that he could not stand it anymore. The hate crime heated up the #metoo movement in Korea, but there was also a huge backlash. Many K-Pop singers and other celebrities who professed to reading Cho Nam-Joo's feminist novella (which, as the author explained, is largely based on personal exprience) were attacked and threatened on the internet. When the book was turned into a movie, the actors and actresses got under attack.

But Cho Nam-Joo has the numbers to back up her text, and she includes them in it - the book is written in a very particular, rather dry and detached style that includes studies and other research (the twist-ending reveals why, and the last sentence is vicious). The effect is harrowing - it is by largely denying empathy and stating the facts that the protagonist's dire situation becomes clear. Gender inequality in South Korea is ranked as one of the highest in the world, you can find some stats here.

Similar to Han Kang in The Vegetarian, Cho Nam-Joo depicts a scenario in which other characters interpret the effects of degradation and lack of agency that the protagonist shows as mental illness - but it's worth contemplating whether those protagonists are sick, or whether the circumstances under which they have to live are sick.

Very interesting and highly relevant, not only in South Korea. Here's the movie trailer with English subtitles. You can learn more about the novel in my radio piece and our latest podcast episode (both in German).
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.6k followers
December 19, 2022
Controversial Korean feminist book following a woman who according to the people around her is "losing it". I really enjoyed this book. It's a painfully relatable read. I recommend it!

Warning: The writing is on the dry side but I felt like the ending explained it.

*It made it to my best books of 2022: https://youtu.be/WmTndjsYFIc
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
730 reviews4,987 followers
February 1, 2023
What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life, asks poet Muriel Rukeyser. The answer, she says, is ‘the world would split open.’ Korean author Cho Nam-joo has done just this with her 2016 novel Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 (82년생 김지영) which helped spark the #MeToo movement in South Korea and became a flashpoint of gender discussions and backlash. While focusing on misogyny in South Korea, Kim Jiyoung becomes a channel for women’s collective rage that was felt universally, being translated into 18 languages--such as the English translation by Jamie Chang--in this novel that opens with the titular character quite literally channelling the voices of women both dead and alive to speak out against misogynist mistreatment. Going through Kim Jiyoung’s life story and cataloguing the gender injustices along the way leading up to her breaking point, Cho Nam-joo paints a portrait of women’s experience for all the world to reflect upon ‘as evidence of how women in this era, the 2010s, lived, thought and made effort,’ Cho says in an interview with NPR. ‘I thought of Kim Jiyoung's character as a vessel that contains experiences and emotions that are common to every Korean woman,’ Cho says, and the international success of the novel has shown that this experience resonates across the globe. The novel itself is direct and brief, but opens up a massive conversation on gender inequalities such as access to adequate employment, household duties, stigmas of pregnant women to simply being believed, all while commenting on how and why so many of these issues get brushed under the rug. It is undeniably a must-read.

If we women all go through these experiences, then they should be discussed together, in a public way.
— Cho Nam-joo

The cultural context of the novel and its wake are as interesting as the book itself. In May of 2016 (when the book was released) a young woman was stabbed to death in a restroom of Seoul’s Gangnam district subway, the killer claiming he did it ‘because women have always ignored me’. This gets into how men have been socially conditioned into entitlement over women’s bodies and affection--a global issue shown with Incels murdering women such as the 2014 Isla Vista killings in the US--and was another major spark leading up to the major South Korean MeToo movement demonstrations in 2018 where President Moon Jae-in acknowledged that the country ‘cannot solve this through laws alone and we need to change our culture and attitude’. This novel has been cited as a large inspiration for the MeToo movement, as well as the Escape the Corset and 4B feminist movements in South Korea.

So what exactly is in this novel, you might be inclined to wonder considering all this. The novel chronicles the life of main character Kim Jiyoung from childhood into early years of marriage when she begins to channel voices and is sent to a therapist for fears of mental instability (the notions of madness in women have a long misogynist history such as the etymology of the word hysteria being a medical diagnosis for women essentially for them causing disruption to others for any reason). Cho Nam-joo does well by having most of the issues faced by Jiyoung seem fairly standard to demonstrate how ingrained misogyny is in society.
Born during a time when ‘checking the sex of the foetus and aborting females was common practice, as if ‘daughter’ was a medical problem’ Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be “ladylike.” That it’s your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It’s your fault for not noticing and not avoiding.

This social conditioning begins early in childhood where women are denied victimhood of aggression and assault by claiming the way they dress, the people they hang out with, or any normal social aspects of their life invited the disturbances upon them. When Jiyoung is stalked by a male classmate on her way home and made by him to feel like his potential assault is her fault for smiling at him in class, her understandable fears are swatted down by her father who yells at her in claims she brought it upon herself. Similarly, Jiyoung’s primary school has strict dress codes for the girls that are not enforced for the boys because they are deemed as being naturally more active. Dr. Helen Morales discusses the double edged sword of dress codes for girls in her book Antigone Rising as policing girls bodies while simultaneously upholding a capitalist market that thrives on sexualizing young girl’s bodies. Dress too conservatively and be labeled frumpy and undesirable, be desirable and be chastised for it. Similarly Jiyoung sees while in college being sexually unobtainable is looked down upon, but having dated a classmate makes you ‘someone else’s chewed gum’ and suddenly minimized under the same standards.

The young laborers worked without adequate sleep, rest or food, thinking that was what working entailed for everyone.

While Jiyoung is painfully aware of these double standards as a child, but it is during her quest for employment and holding a job as a women when these issues really come to a head. Jiyoung is openly told that women are less desirable for employment because they may require maternity leave, and often sees how qualified women are passed over in interviews simply because men are more valued. ‘What do you want from us?, it is observed, ‘[t]he dumb girls are too dumb, the smart girls are too smart, and the average girls are too unexceptional?’ Once getting a job, she is painfully aware that working harder to prove her worth becomes harmful for other women in her field as it sets a standard where working oneself to death and sacrificing your time is required to be on equal footing with male employees that do not have to do the same to be accepted.
I've noticed this about new employees over the years. The women take on all the cumbersome, minor tasks without being asked, while guys never do. Doesn´t matter if they're new or the youngest - they never do anything they're not told to do. But why do women simply take things upon themselves?

The sacrifices made don’t just apply to the working world. Jiyoung is pressured to have a child by her husband’s family and when she does she is then shamed by society for being pregnant. Given the opportunity to show up 30 minutes later due to her pregnancy, her male coworkers chide her for being privileged and given unfair advantages while ignoring how difficult, disruptive and painful pregnancy is (she begins showing up extra early before realizing this is setting a precedent that will harm pregnant women in the future). While taking the subway home and denied a seat despite her obvious condition, she is told she is shameful for working while pregnant because she must not be able to afford it, another example of how society demands her to become pregnant but then shames her while not affording her a space for being pregnant.

When discussing how disruptive the pregnancy is to her husband she sees just how naive men are to women’s conditions. While having the child will completely derail her career--much is made of the near impossible conditions needed for her to continue working and have childcare later on--her husband considers the minor inconveniences he will face to be equal. He bemoans that he won’t always be able to get a drink with the fellas after work and will have to help with bedtime occasionally as if that somehow matches the sacrifices she is making. There is a simple blindness to the household duties of women being reflected in the husband, something that is a problem everywhere. In her book Entitled, Dr. Kate Manne examines the gender inequality of housework after having a child. While these are US statistics, the takeaway message is something fairly universal and often worse in other countries:
First-time parenthood increased a man’s workload at home by about ten hours per week, [for women] about twenty hours...much of the new work that fathers did take on was comparatively ‘fun’ work of engagement with their children...Fathers did this for four hours per week, on average, while dropping their number of housework y five horse per week...Mothers decreased their hours of housework by only one hour per week--while adding about twenty-one hours of child-rearing labor...and mothers stilldid more by way of infant engagement: about six hours per week, on average.

One of Cho Nam-joo’s most successful tactics in the novel is showing the ways in while men are oblivious to the gender inequalities. The husband honestly thinks he is an equal partner and isn’t perpetuating patriarchal norms while as a reader we see exactly how he is driving them. Manne offers another statistic, that ‘while 46 percent of fathers reported being coequal parents, only 32 percent of mothers concurred’. The blindness to these issues is a major theme of the book, particularly with the framing of the narrative. At the end we read the assessment from Jiyoung’s therapist who claims to have understood it all. ‘Frankly, it’s only natural that men remain unaware unless they encounter special circumstances as I have,’ he writes, ‘because men are not the main players in childbirth and childcare.’ The final gutpunch sentence, however, reveals that he has, in fact, not understood or learned. Which is why this book is so important to find a male readership (it should be noted that in South Korea, female celebrities faced strong backlash for promoting it to a much larger and more aggressive degree than male celebrities such as BTS did for backing it). Cho Nam-joo is making a very valid point that men may never truly understand it and will likely always fail to fully grasp it, but they need to always struggle to understand it even when it is pointed out that they have failed (a large part of anti-racism work for white people is framed this way as well).

The framing of the novel, as mentioned, is a really genius choice. Written as if it were a clinical case study, the detached and matter-of-fact narration allows the reader to see the events without emotional slant that could be dismissed as hysteria (gonna bring that back in because, honestly, that is a common attack) or bias. When seen clinically there is no excuse to look away or dismiss, and she really just wants us to listen to women (being believed is a major problem). This also gives a great opportunity for her to cite sources right within the text and provide factual information to strengthen the narrative. The technique touches on how often women aren’t believed, and a similar approach of putting citations right there on the page was used by Claudia Rankine in her recent book Just Us: An American Conversation for similar purposes.

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.

While much of this sounds rather heavy--and it is and should be--there is a note of hope in the narrative. In many episodes, particularly those from Jiyoung’s childhood, collective resistance has helped change policy. When the girls stand up to the teacher for unfair lunch rules, the teacher changes them and sees they are correct. Resistance to the dress code helps make it more lax for girls (though not equally). There is strength in numbers, though sometimes this also garners backlash. When a group of girls attacks the local flasher who frequently reveals himself to the school through the windows, they are chastised as having brought shame upon the school even though they stopped a public sexual offender. Later when women at Jiyoung’s former workplace rally together against an incident where a man has hidden a camera in the restroom and the male coworkers were sharing the photos, the women are admonished for creating a hostile work culture and asked to think of the families of their coworkers they are harming by pressing for justice. ‘The fact that they have families and parents,’ one woman states, ‘is why they shouldn’t do these things, not why we should forgive them.’. This idea that he men are the true victims for being called to account for their transgressions is central to Dr. Manne’s theory of himpathy.

Sure, I said most of what happens in this book isn’t extreme examples for a purpose. Perhaps I’d think a bathroom camera was extreme but during my years working for a Metro Park during college a man was arrested for wearing a scuba suit and hiding in women’s pit toilets to photograph them. Yet the local conversation was about how he was 'a family man' and 'not that bad'. This sort of himpathetic treatment holds an umbrella for abuse all the time. It also seems to value the discomfort of the perpetrator due to their own actions over the violation of their victims. Or, as Nam-joo writes ‘While offenders were in fear of losing a small part of their privilege, the victims were running the risk of losing everything.’.

I could make a strong case for Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 to be required reading, and its easily flowing narrative and accessibility honestly would make it a great selection for high school reading. These subjects are important and it is really encouraging to see a book like this garner international support. This book is uncomfortale but all the better opportunity for growth. The backlash and claims of misandry--much like with Mieko Kawakami's Breasts and Eggs--only seem to prove it's point. Jiyoung is the voice of women everywhere asking to be heard, to be believed, to be respected and to be treated fairly. It’s about time we listen.

4.75/5
Profile Image for Yun.
505 reviews17.9k followers
November 27, 2020
In Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, Jiyoung recently quit her job to care full time for her newborn daughter. But something is wrong, as she starts to take on the voices of other women, both alive and dead, in her life. What follows is the account of Jiyoung's life, all that led up to that moment, from the view of her psychiatrist. Through it, we see the systematic and casual misogyny and sexism that has shaped Jiyoung her entire life.

Reading this felt both shocking and familiar. I wish I could say this book surprised me, being from a different culture and a slightly different time, but it didn't. The things mentioned in here are all known to me, either from my own personal experiences or through current events. I think any female reader, no matter the background, will see similarities with their own life. That's what makes this book so powerful and also terribly discouraging.

I didn't rate this book higher because it doesn't feel like a properly fleshed-out story to me. Rather, the dispassionate and sparse prose, mixed in with the gender statics, felt more like a long article. A lot of events are told, rather than shown, since it's written as if the psychiatrist is summarizing Jiyoung's life instead of fully fleshing out all the events and details. Also, I'm not sure Jiyoung taking on other women's voices really worked for me as a plot device. It feels like it was glossed over pretty quickly in the beginning and not very well explained at the end.

Still, this book leaves a lot of food for thought. Jiyoung's culture was making strides in sexism and misogyny, and yet, is the attitude towards women all that different between Jiyoung's generation and her mother's? Yes, overt sexism is slowly being legislated away, but it's the casual misogyny of every day life that lingers: this expectation that women need to work more for the same opportunities, that they need to be smarter to be even seen as competent, that they need to sacrifice all in order to raise a family and contribute financially. For all the progress of the modern world, we are still so far from gender equality.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
3,930 reviews2,160 followers
January 28, 2023
*I didn't know there's a movie adaptation as well.


*As reviewed in September 2020:

Just before reading this book, I was confused if it's a fiction or a non-fiction. But I did not even check because I am glad it turned out to be both!

The story is fictionalized but there are facts mentioned in between with references when it comes to Korea's history of sex ratios, definite important acts and changes made in relation to female/girl child education, their rights and similar important data.

The story has been so well presented with the contents starting from Autumn, 2015 and then goes on to describe the childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, marriage, and life of our main character, Kim Jiyoung, as in 2016 as the closing chapter.

This book delivered more than what I had anticipated. The writing is amazing, the book is well-prepared and the characters have been represented with utmost care and reality.

Not all books on feminism or women upliftment deals with violence, abuse or such as this book has shown. But it also shows how harmful and disturbing it gets when girls get discriminated starting the moment they get born, in matters of what they eat, getting education, jobs, marriage when compared to the male siblings.

The best lesson I could learn from this story is the fact that we women start making all this assumptions and enforce these beliefs more upon ourselves.

What I didn't expect was the severe mental health consequences the character had to go through in the story.

I wonder if the in-laws and the relatives would behave the same way if it was her husband who suffered the same condition.

Love this book. Lots of life lessons! Women be growing up strong like that inspite the various restrictions and taboos slapped onto us.

This Korean translated book is slowly gaining hype because it's good! And yes, good books cannot hide 💯

Someone at Instagram and Facebook (account name: hygge_with_book) plagiarized this whole review of mine until the last 💯 smiley (it's too much 😑) and posted the same in April 2021 there.

I came to know about it today as one of my friends here notified me about it.

Just stop stealing.
Profile Image for emma.
1,780 reviews42.6k followers
December 16, 2022
I feel like I wanna sign a petition. Or set something on fire.

Usually I read as an escape (this is another way of saying I dread being alone with my thoughts), and therefore my feelings about or surrounding what I read is more relevant to the fictional world I just left than the real world I am returning to. One exception to this is my favorite theme ever (people are lovely and everyday life is filled with heart-wrenching beauty), but otherwise it's almost what I look for.

This book was the opposite.

Honestly, as a story, I didn't find this that compelling. The writing didn't do much for me, I already forget the characters, and there was no real plot to speak of.

But for what it exemplifies, and for what it has accomplished, it's easily 4 stars.

While this is a work of fiction, in my consumption of it and in the role it plays (for me and generally) it's more, in effect, like an article.

And I love a longform article.

Bottom line: One of a kind! I think.

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currently-reading updates

my new thing is getting my book recommendations from cool girls on instagram who call them stuff like "sad girl reads"

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reading books by asian authors for aapi month!

book 1: kim jiyoung, born 1982
Profile Image for María.
144 reviews3,057 followers
December 14, 2019
"El mundo había cambiado muchísimo, pero las pequeñas reglas, los pactos y las costumbres seguían sin actualizarse. En conclusión, el mundo no había cambiado tanto".

Esto es lo más impactante para mí de Kim Ji-young. Que un día te levantas y piensas "anda, pero si estamos en el siglo XXI, el mundo ha evolucionado". Te paras a pensar en cómo vivían las mujeres antes y te sientes aliviada por estar donde estás. Pero es mentira y lo más sorprendente de todo es que ahora no es tan diferente como pensamos. Esa es la mierda.

Un libro súper recomendado.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
375 reviews2,775 followers
September 9, 2022
If you call yourself a feminist or if you if want to understand how women experience the world, pick up this book!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows the story of one Korean woman as she experiences the world as a female.

This is a short read that packs a big punch, and these stories are needed. Too often I hear, "Women have the same opportunities as men." Well, let's talk about that.

I was born in 1985, 3 years before Kim Jiyoung in the United States. When I was a freshman in high school, the pervy male gym teacher decided that he would give the female students a "sit-up test." The class of about 50 was called up an alphabetical order. The Perv would pin us to the ground with his body, rubbing our legs and looking up our shorts. One of the young ladies drew blood from her arms and had tears streaming down her face. Luckily, it wasn't my turn that day, but I did go home and tell my dad, asking him for a note to excuse me. Without hesitating, he wrote a note excusing me from any "sit-up test". But he didn't stop there. In the morning, he came into school with me and stopped at the office. His big booming voice was heard ringing through the school, "You don't even want this!" before he was quickly ushered into a more interior room. As the day went on, my friends and I were talking about the upcoming gym class, and many of the young ladies wanted to borrow my note. Once gym time came around, The Perv had to be faced away from the young ladies, the female gym teacher performed the tests, pointing away from The Perv, and the athletic director was on hand to supervise that The Perv wasn't doing anything fishy. As I didn't need my note, I put it away and performed the exercise with the rest of the young women. My father saved all of the young women that he could. At the time, I think it a triumph, a happy ending. But is it? Why was my father the only parent yelling in the office that morning? Why didn't the other young ladies produce notes from their parents? Why wasn't there 50 screaming parents in the office? 1) There is an environment where young women don't feel that they can speak up. 2) Swift, immediate and strong action need to happen. My father never once doubted me or blamed me. He didn't say, "Oh, you must be mistaken" or "What were you wearing?"

In the workplace, I have also felt the sting of discrimination. When the auto industry collapsed here in Michigan, my graduation date just so happened to coincide with the downturn in the economy. I was told that I didn't need a job because my father would support me. I was offered jobs that paid $100 per week and didn't pay on time. When I was trying to move up the corporate ladder, I noticed that men would fill up the offices. The one female in an office was demoted. The male executive would get in an exciting project, and he would deliver it to another one of his male colleagues because it was more comfortable working with people who looked just like him. Of course if you asked this male executive if he was sexist, he would say "Of course not!" However, all of the choice, high-value assignments were going to males.

What does that have to do with Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982? This book documents Kim Jiyoung's journey through school, college, her career, marriage, and motherhood. Some of her experiences will echo my own; however, I wanted to share a little bit of what life is like in the US for women. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows yet.

Overall, pick this book up! I wished that I read this ages ago. Highly Recommend!

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Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,248 followers
June 9, 2021
One of my Top Ten Books of 2020!

I’ve been saving this one for a time when I could handle the impending rage-read. I don��t think anyone is ever really going to be “ready” for this kind of patriarchal bitchslap, though, so I’m just gonna wade into it.



I’d also like to take a moment to apologize to my Kindle, which I shook, tossed and slammed in frustration so often whilst reading that it’s probably going to take out a restraining order against me. I didn’t know so much unspoken fury could live in such a small book. It’s not even 200 pages.

This novella starts at the end, where we meet Kim Jiyoung as an adult. She’s married and has a young daughter, but is slowly losing her mind. We observe her from an outside perspective, through whispered discussions between her husband and in-laws. Then the story takes us back to the beginning, when Jiyoung was born in 1982. Following her from childhood, through adolescence into adulthood, what’s striking isn’t how distinct or special she is, but how ordinary. Her life, with all of its mundane injustices, is instantly recognizable to every woman that’s reading. They’re Korean characters in a Korean setting, but much of the experiences are universal.

“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.”

I feel like if I tried to summarize all of the things this book touched on, this review would be longer than the text itself. But suffice to say that Kim Jiyoung, and the women she represents, have had the decks stacked against them from the beginning. From the first moments of her life, where her mother apologized to her mother-in-law for having a daughter, to the subtle and blatant ways boys were coddled and favored while girls were shoved into the background in childhood, is it really any wonder what kind of adults they became?

It’s positively sinister what we convince ourselves is normal. What we convince ourselves we want and choose, as if the societal expectations put on us from birth aren’t nudging us one way or another. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. Worst of all it makes me doubt my own feelings and motivations. This type of realization has the potential to be completely debilitating. And the fact that Jiyoung would be only ten years older than me is seriously fucking with my head. This isn’t a Black Mirror episode, this isn’t a dystopian futuristic novel; it’s here and now.

Honestly, the most devastating part for me was the footnotes. Any time the author referenced a statistic about Korean gender imbalance, she attached the relevant study. It’s one thing to cite these numbers, but the inclusion of the data to back them up just reinforces their stark existence. Plus, I can’t help but wonder if she felt compelled to do so because she expected male readers to doubt her words and experiences. Women don’t really need to have these facts proven to us; we’ve lived them.

My favorite thing about this book was how much it pissed people off. The controversy it stirred in Korea when first published just demonstrates how much discussions on these topics are overdue. As of 2016, South Korea was the worst ‘developed’ nation to be a working woman. (And btw, this isn’t an opportunity to dunk on another country for being ‘worse’ at something than us, because it’s not like America is known for it’s generous parental leave policy.) Famous Korean women who said they read the book were lobbed with criticism, while their male counterparts mostly escaped scrutiny. The actress cast as Jiyoung in the movie adaptation was bombarded with hate online. By trying to rebuff critique, the misogynist parts of society only succeeded in proving Cho Nam-Joo’s points.

Like that article on The Lily that’s been circulating the past couple of days has pointed out, most of the onus for maintaining the status quo falls on the men who let it happen. Whether it’s Ginetta Sagan, “Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor”, or Lizzo, “Why men great ‘til they gotta be great?”, it’s clear these aren’t cases of isolated ignorance—it‘s systemic and widespread. Men need to speak up for women when it matters, even when nobody else is watching.

Basically, listen to Rihanna:



**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Sooyoun.
34 reviews16 followers
July 27, 2019
Main character of this book is one year younger than me. And I am born and raise in Korea, that means a lot of her experience is very similar with my own.
When I was young, I was young and naive like every other single human being so I didn’t even realize how many things are unfair even cruel.

When I was growing up my grandmother used to tell me all the time whenever I made small mistakes “ How can you be this clumsy even you are woman???”- and of course my younger brother never hear it.
Always I had more house work and have to help my mom because i am woman, and they said I am such a good girl to doing so.

I had countless experience about sexual abuse in Korea like in subway or bus someone’s touching.
even when I was 14, i was in subway ride with my friend-not too many people and that was around 4 pm for reference-one strange old guy was upset to me because I was not nice enough to him-I cannot even remember how that start!! But he was stranger!!-and he start lecture to me and keep finger poking my chest area while he was talking.
I said stop but no one listened.

And how many times I’ve seen that random pervert’s private area in public?? Sometimes they were asking directions inside their car in street or just watching me from bushed near playground.
Is that all happen because I was not careful enough???
Oh...I don’t think so.

And they are always said I have to be sweet cute beautiful and nice polite girl. AND study hard to be successful women!! How can I be all this?? I am just one human.

Also a lot of my friends growing up together who were very bright and smart now have kids. Some of them still working feel very guilty for their children because they can’t spend enough time with them but somehow their husband doesn’t feel that way.
And some become housewife, curious about why they had to went through all that crazy education?- korea we were pretty crazy about our study when I growing up, I stayed school until 10 pm when I was high school. Start 7 am...

Too many things I want to talk about this book, but i have to say this is very well written and make me feel that I am not alone.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan .
934 reviews1,879 followers
September 7, 2022
This book tells the story of Kim Jiyoung, a millennial woman living in a small apartment in Seoul.

She had to sacrifice her career to look after her child. Her husband shows her to a Psychiatrist when she starts showing symptoms of psychosis. We can see her telling her entire life to the Psychiatrist in this book.

The author discusses about almost all the problems faced by women in Korea. This book gets a global appeal as all the problems, including sexism, she is trying to discuss are also the problems women face globally.

What I learned from this book
1) Maternal love.
Maternal love is one of the purest forms of love, and mothers are the only people who will stay with us at any time of crisis. But it is sad to see people misusing it, as mentioned in this book, hurting all mothers in the name of maternal love.
"People who pop a painkiller at the smallest hint of a migraine, or who need anesthetic cream to remove a mole, demand that women giving birth should gladly endure the pain, exhaustion, and mortal fear. As if that's maternal love. This idea of "maternal love" is spreading like religious dogma. Accept Maternal Love as your Lord and Savior, for the Kingdom is near"


2) What does it mean to be "ladylike"?
I am a person who prefers to use gender-inclusive nouns like humankind instead of mankind. It is disheartening to see females being controlled right from their childhood by teaching them how to behave "ladylike" even in this century. The author is meticulously discussing this topic in this book.

A similar term used by few male chauvinists is ‘woman’s touch' to the job and good-wife material. I never allow anyone to use these regressive terms in the conversations I am participating in.

Some people will be confused about why they should support feminism if they prefer to use gender-inclusive terms. They should instead support humanism or egalitarianism. This question arises only because of not understanding the true meaning of feminism. Feminism doesn't just mean equality between all genders; it primarily seeks to return to women everything they were denied for generations. This is why it's called feminism and not egalitarianism.
"Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be "ladylike." That it's your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It's your fault for not noticing and not avoiding."


3) How to balance maternity and career?
This is yet another serious topic that needs in-depth discussion. This topic alone makes this book a must-read one for all men as the men are those who have serious misconceptions on this topic.
"Just as putting the care of your child in another's hands doesn't mean you don't love your child, quitting and looking after your child doesn't mean you have no passion for your career."


4) Helping out.
In the earlier hunter-gatherer society, men were hunters (due to their extra physical strength), and women used to cook food. But it is absurd to continue this practice even now when both men and women have an equal role in the family. A husband should never use the term helping out to his wife. Yeah, never, not even once.
“Help out? What is it with you and 'helping out?' You're going to 'help out' with chores. 'Help out' with raising our baby. 'Help out' with finding me a new job. Isn't this your house, too? Your home? Your child? And if I work, don't you spend my pay, too? Why do you keep saying 'help out' like you're volunteering to pitch in on someone else's work?"


5) Female infanticide
Female infanticide is one of the cruel practices carried out in some parts of the world. Prenatal gender determination is against the law in some countries only due to this reason.
"This was a time when the government had implemented birth control policies called "family planning" to keep population growth under control. Abortion due to medical problems had been legal for ten years at that point, and checking the sex of the fetus and aborting females was common practice, as if "daughter" was a medical problem."



My favourite three lines from this book
“Her boss grumbled, "This is why we don't hire women." She replied, "Women don't stay because you make it impossible for us to stay."


"In a world where doctors can cure cancer and do heart transplants, there isn't a single pill to treat menstrual cramps.' Her sister pointed at her own stomach. 'The world wants our uterus to be drug-free. Like sacred grounds in a virgin forest.


“Girls don't need special treatment -- they just want the same responsibilities and opportunities. Instead of choosing the lunch menu, they want to run for president.”


What could have been better?
The writing style of this book could have been better. Some readers might find it pretty flat in some areas when the author is trying to focus our attention on some serious topics.

Rating
4/5 This is one of the few books that I recommend to everyone, irrespective of age, sex, and reading preferences.
Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
878 reviews3,015 followers
December 24, 2021
Kim Ji Young embodies all women. She is a combination of you, me, and her. I was angry and ill after finishing the book. The book captures the common daily life experiences of women who are subjected to systematic sexism and misogyny, whether at work, at home, or anywhere else, and how it has been trivialized since childhood. I was expecting a more heartfelt emotional story, but the story's dry tone makes it more relevant and powerful. The lack of a face on the cover is due to the fact that the woman may be anyone, including you, me, or her, because we've all been in similar situations at some point in our lives. The author backed her story with several footnotes and stats to remind us that THIS IS NOT FICTION. This is a fucking reality. That ending of the book was supposed to be a ray of hope but the saying goes here as well MEN WILL BE MEN. It was unexpected ending and a harsh reality. A must read or everyone and their is a movie version as well which I am so excited to watch.
Profile Image for Pearl Ju.
42 reviews26 followers
April 8, 2017
If you are a woman living in Korea, I recommend reading this book in your room alone with tissues because I am positive at least once you will show tears with sympathy. Due to unconscious sexual discrimination, women bear their own wounds in their memories. Although in Korean history, women work for a living, they were treated as a person who only did housework and men weren't willing to help any housework. It well describes the ordinary women's lives under the male-dominated society.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,399 reviews8,117 followers
November 14, 2020
Appreciated this novel’s thorough portrayal of the entrenched sexism in South Korean society. Cho Nam-Joo shows how patriarchy pervades every facet of South Korean life: the ways parents and teachers devalue girls and idolize boys, how employers discriminate against women both in the application process and on the job, and how women’s careers both outside of the household and within the household are limited and not given their actual monetary value. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 felt like a mixture of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Vegetarian by Han Kang, especially because of how the author shows how Kim Jiyoung’s mental health is affected by the sexism she encounters in accumulating doses throughout her life. If anything, this book reinforces how structures of oppression – in this case, patriarchy – burrow into people’s hearts and souls, such that anyone who cares about mental health should also care about dismantling societal injustices too.

I give this book three stars just because I felt distant from the characters and their emotions and relationships. I feel like this novel did an excellent job of portraying sexism and its consequences, though I wanted more depth from various characters and relationships. I am not implying that the characters felt unrealistic – the complete obliviousness and complicity of so many men in this novel felt so apt and well-described – rather I wanted more insight about the main character’s relationships with her siblings or if those relationships disappeared after the main character had her first child. Or the author could have allocated more time spent to the main character’s feelings surrounding grief and loss of the opportunities she could have had if not for sexism. Perhaps these aspects of the novel were lost in the translation of the novel though. Thus I would still recommend Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 for those interested in learning more about sexism and patriarchy in South Korea.
Profile Image for Coco Day.
100 reviews2,394 followers
February 3, 2022
can someone make it mandatory for every man to read this book??

unfortunately this was very relatable but i guess also comforting at the same time to know i’m not the only one who has experienced things like this.

it was very short, only 163 pages, but packed in so many different situations that illustrated pretty much every struggle a woman is subjected to in her life. from sexual harassment to mother shaming, it really had it all.

of course i was left angry, upset and frustrated because: why is our world like this?? 🙃 but i did find it very interesting to specifically tap into the Korean female experience and struggles they have that may be different to mine.

*huff* if someone tells you there’s no need for feminism anymore, tell them to read this book!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
April 26, 2020
Different country, same old sexist bullshit. A tale painfully familiar, just set in a foreign land.

This is a short, odd South Korean novel about gender politics. It's a strange mix of fictional life story of one woman moving through the men-dominated and men-focused world, and socio-economic facts and statistics. The structure is explained later in the novel, but even in this semi-lecture form lacking artistic finesse, it's a tremendously informative work for anyone curious about other countries. It helped me to understand some peculiarities of all the South Korean pop-culture content I keep binging on. Or why South Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world.

Read it.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,147 reviews97.7k followers
October 2, 2021
Content + Trigger Warnings: mention of miscarrying, mention of abortion, bullying, harassment, depression, assault (unwanted touching), alcoholism depiction, pregnancy + labor depiction, mention of hidden camera in bathrooms, and just very intense misogynistic views in all walks of life - please use caution while reading!

Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch

Buddy read with Arryn for Namjoon's birthday! ❤
Profile Image for Muthia Rahmana.
1 review1 follower
June 14, 2020
Eye-catching book with a beautiful cover brought me to know more. Yup, the title is Kim Ji Young Born in 1982. From the title, I could say that it was about biography, but not. It was about how women in South Korea face Discrimination and pressure during their lives. I was so amazed. Many of my friends told me that I should read the novel and then watch the film. Then, I started to read first and then watch.

So, here is my review:

I realized that people have their pressure that we could not compare with because they have their destiny, where they grew up, how the parents educate and how their social environment influenced them. Include Kim Ji Young who played by Jung Yu Mi. It's not a secret that in Korea, women have a double standard. Kim Ji Young is a mother with a daughter, and her husband is Jung Dae Hyun, who played by Gong Yoo. In this story, when entering married life in 30s years old, Kim Ji Young is required to have perfect abilities as a mother and daughter-in-law. So, this often makes Kim Ji Young lose her identity and soul. Kim Ji Young often feels tired, empty, bored, and depressed, which is certainly not good for her mental health. Besides, when Kim Ji Young and her husband and daughter visit the in-laws, it is not uncommon to experience discrimination in the form of comparing and with other daughters-in-law. The in-laws are always asking Kim Ji Young to do various things while he, on the other hand, also has to look after his daughter. Her husband slowly realized that this was not good for Kim Ji Youngs' mental, so he came to a psychologist for help. At first, Kim Ji Young refuses to attend the psychologist, but then she went to the psychologist because she felt that this was wrong and realized that she could not do everything (literally). Flashback before Kim Ji Young married, she has Discrimination when she is looking for her job. It's like a typical cycle, after you graduate from university then you looking for a job. I found there's a gender gap in here. Kim Ji Young is an alumnus in one of an outstanding university, but then she did not find the job what she likes. She always lost to her male friends. Her male friends still get the opportunity in any company and quickly get a higher position. Even when Kim Ji Young accepted into a company, she realizes that his abilities are equal and perhaps more elevated than his male friends, but instead those who find it easy for higher positions are his male friends. So that's what makes me say there are a gender gap and discrimination. That proven by Kim statement. Kim said "Discrimination did not stop there, even when I got a job. I can not do what I could do according to my ability, because again, the only chance I got was my male friend."

The part that I like is when Kim Ji Young could find herself again, without hesitation. I believe that God will lead to your path, no matter what it is.

Maybe this novel and film could be defined as "feminist film and novel" But it was not. So much lesson-learn we could apply in our daily life. One of them is, don't compare one capability to other people because we have our own. It's okay when you say comparing for encouraging your motivation, but don't be over in it. If you want to be competitive, then let's play competitive and fair. If you just see someone capability based on gender, it means bias. I could say that it is very subjective.

Honestly, I recommend you to watch and read Kim Ji Young. Hope you could get some motivation or many lessons that you could get.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
843 reviews1,683 followers
December 24, 2020
I liked what this book was portraying i.e. gender discrimination, how women are treated in patriarchal a society, but the main character failed miserably to invoke any emotions in me. I was unable to connect with her throughout the book. This is not the first time that I have read something like this, and coming from a country where patriarchy reigns, this story was nothing exceptional or monumental to me.
Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews12.8k followers
Read
April 19, 2020
SO FREAKIN GOOD. applause only for this incredible account of what it means to be a woman living in South Korea. Informative, funny, thoughtful, and ultimately packing a punch, this book is definitely a new favourite
Profile Image for Heba.
975 reviews1,816 followers
June 3, 2021
تبدأ " كيم جي يونج " في تقمص عدد من شخصيات النساء اللاتي كُن في محيطها ...��بدو أن الأمر ليس مُزحة...فالزوج بدا حائراً ومشوشاً إزاء تصرفاتها الغرائبية ، لقد كان مُحباً وداعماً، لن يقف ساكناً...، وهنا لابد من الإشادة بالمبادرة التي قام بها وقد سارع بمقابلة طبيب نفسي للخروج من هذه الأزمة المريعة...
من هنا يأتيك النص ثقيلاً يفتقد الشغف ليروي قصة حياة " كيم يونج" كامرأة كورية ولكن هى القصة نفسها التي يمكن أن نرويها عن نساء العالم جميعاً....
تفاجأت بتماثل المجتمع الكوري ومجتمعاتنا العربية في التمييز بين الجنسين ،صراع المرأة ومعاناتها المريرة في التخلي عن أحلامها لتسلك طرقاً بعيدة لكي تحقق مورداً مالياً يعين الأسرة على تحمل مسؤلياتها وأعبائها...
وإذا ما انطلقت...جامحة لتحقيق طموحاتها سيعرقلها الكثير من الافكار الصدئة السطحية التي تحكم قبضتها منذ عقود من الزمن...
ولكنني اؤمن بأن المرأة لديها دائماً قائمة من الأولويات ، وإذا ما أصبحت أماً ، فليس من السهل عندئذٍ أن توازن بين مهام عملها والاعتناء بصغارها ، لذا فالأولوية القصوى والأولى لابد أن توليها لأطفالها....
كم مُشفقةٌ انا على هؤلاء النسوة اللاتي لا يملكن حق الاختيار ، فترى قسوة الحياة وصعوباتها تفرض عليهن الالتزام بالعمل فليس هنالك مكان للمجازفة وتقديم استقالة أو حتى اجازة مؤقتة ، قد تكلف احداهن ما لا تستطع أن تكفل الحياة لصغارها...
ستدرك بأن هنا كانت امرأة حذرة صامتة ، تتلقى الصدمات وخيبات الأمل بالدموع الخافتة ، لم تتمتع بخياراتها في الحياة ، ولكن ما أن تتوقف عن صمتها وحذرها ، تستعيد ذكرياتها الدفينة الغائرة حتى تسترسل في توصيفيها بدقة تفاصيلها وزخم مشاعرها...
أخيراً...اتدري أن المرأة لا تعلق بمصيدة ما حتى تراها تعرف كيف تبدأ من جديد....
Profile Image for demi. ♡.
206 reviews278 followers
July 16, 2020
❥ 3.5 / 5 stars

I HATE GENDER INEQUALITY. I HATE PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY. IT SUCKS AND FUCK I WANNA BURN IT DOWN!!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥


description



P.S. I truly want to give this book five stars but I just can’t, considering the writing style. I don’t know if it’s because of poor translation or the original one is also the same but it makes me unable to feel connected to any characters even Jiyoung . :(
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
477 reviews490 followers
February 8, 2020
Este es de ese tipo de historias que te hace crecer y que te educan, aunque como bien demuestra ese impactante, pero realista final, solo se educa quien quiere, y quien decide hacer el esfuerzo de salir de su zona de confort y de sus privilegios para mirar más allá.

A través de diferentes episodios en la vida de Kim Ji-young, la autora nos va a ir haciendo un retrato muy claro sobre la sociedad surcoreana y el machismo que impera en ella. Si bien es fácilmente extrapolable a cualquier parte del mundo, muchas veces me sorprende el atraso en términos de igualdad que hay en esta parte de Asia, algo que choca mucho con la riqueza de estos países y sus avances tecnológicos.

El caso es que Ji-young va a vivir este machismo desde su más tierna infancia. Su hermano pequeño, por ser el único varón, tiene derecho a mayor porción de cómida, a espacios más amplios para sus cosas, a ser atendido en primer lugar... Irá creciendo y se dará cuenta de que esto se traslada a todo en la vida. En el trabajo una mujer no tiene derecho a esperar ascender profecionalmente, ni mucho menos a pretender puestos altos dentro de la jerarquía laboral. De hecho, gran parte de las mujeres abandonan el mundo laboral tras tener hijos, para no recuperarlo jamás. El techo de cristal es una realidad en todos los países, pero en países como Corea del sur o Japón parece mucho más difícil de romper. Y el trabajo, en la mayoría de casos, es una mera herramienta para que las mujeres encuentren un buen marido. Increíble.

Por supuesto, la mujer se mide principalmente por la calidad de su marido y una vez esta se ha casado, pasa a medirse por su habilidad para tener hijos. Y claro, esos hijos, siempre es preferible que sean varones. La historia más antigua del mundo. Mucha impotencia se siente durante toda la lectura.

Se hace más evidente aún la importancia de este libro si tenemos en cuenta que fue una auténtica revolución en Corea del sur y el resto de Asia. Masas de personas (hombres en su mayoría) criticaron su publicación por el reflejo que da del hombre. Lejos de replantearse la sociedad a la que contribuyen, eligen la censura. Si no se habla de algo, no existe. Este año se ha estrenado la película y nuevamente ha habido un aluvión de críticas. Cuando un libro y, luego, su adaptación mueven de semejante manera los cimientos machistas de una sociedad, es que el libro merece la pena.

La única mini pega que le pongo es su brevedad. Me hubiera gustado que hiciera mayor hincapié en algunos aspectos super importantes. Pero es una lectura altamente recomendable, y para mí, obligada.
Profile Image for Rosh.
1,288 reviews997 followers
April 25, 2022
Reread – April 2022

I had loved this book when I first read it two years ago and I was hoping that my experience would be the same this time. Isn’t there always this fear that revisiting an old favourite will create disappointment due to the high expectations? I needn’t have worried at all. My second read of this book provided just the same level of satisfaction and frustration as the first time around.

This is the story of 33 year old Kim Jiyoung, a young homemaker and mother of a toddler, who just snaps one fine day in 2015. Her husband describes her as "basically a cheerful person, full of laughter, who made [him] laugh by doing impressions of celebrities." But now, she seems to be channelling the spirit of various women in her life, past and present, and using their personality to voice her deep-set frustrations. The story then goes right back to 1982, and takes us through Jiyoung’s childhood, adolescence, young adult years, corporate years and finally the years as a homemaker and mother. Each segment reveals the entrenched unfairness and gender disparity of the Korean society towards women.

No matter which country you are from, if you are a woman, you will feel at least a part of Jiyoung’s exasperation with the system. Most of her struggles are relatable. Whether as a student or a young employee, a mother or a daughter, her quiet, accepting approach towards the people and the problems in her life reveals the extent to which women have resigned themselves to their fate while countries and cultures grossly abuse the rights of 50% of their citizens.

Written in a very staid, almost documentary-like approach, the book might not appeal to some readers. But once you reach the final section of the book, you realise why the author has chosen this particular writing style. On both my reading experiences with this story, my rating was a consistent 4.5 and the ending elevated it to 4.75. It is a brilliant masterstroke that delivers a fitting finale to the narration in a very ironic way.

I don’t want to say much more about this. I just want you to read it. This will remain one of my favourite books, though it causes me such irritation and despondency. A must-read for everyone, not just for women.

I’ll end by quoting a line from the book, said by one of Jiyoung’s friends:
“Girls don't need special treatment - they just want the same responsibilities and opportunities.”

4.75 stars once again.


********************************************

First read - May 2020.

Kim Jiyoung born 1982 is set in urban Korea. Its protagonist, Jiyoung, is a woman who has lived a life subservient to men in spite of being an educated career woman, all because of the patriarchical society. This lifelong suppression of emotions leads to a psychiatric calamity, which flummoxes her family. Jiyoung captivated me greatly because I've quite a lot in common with her. I would rate the book a 4.75 out of 5. Definitely worth reading if you are seeking a book with strong women characters living life in a society that places men on a pedestal, whether they deserve it or not.


*********************************************
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Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,134 followers
September 29, 2022
Now longlisted for the 2020 National Book Awards for Translated Literature in the US and in the UK for the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards in the overall Fiction category

She said she’ll never forget how proud she felt when she presented a bouquet of flowers as a welcome-back present to one of her subordinates, who returned from a year-long childcare leave for the first time in the company’s history.

‘Who is she?’ Jiyoung asked.

‘She left a few months after that.’


82년생 김지영 by 조남주published in 2016, was, and indeed still is, a publishing sensation in Korea, selling over a million copies, the first novel to do so since 엄마를 부탁해 (tr. Please Take Care of Mom), and catalysing a national debate on sexism, particularly in the workplace. I read the novel the week that the fertility rate in Korea fell below 1, the lowest in the 36 countries measured in the OECD (see https://www.ft.com/content/16505438-c...)

The English translation from Jamie Chang is due out next year (thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC). It will be interesting to see what UK/US readers make of it – it isn’t as feelgood or so universal as Please Take Care of Mom, and not as powerfully visceral and literary as The Vegetarian, the two big K-lit breakout novels to date, but an important book nevertheless.

The novel opens in Autumn 2015, introducing us to Kim Jiyoung as she is now, and her mental breakdown (which has echoes of The Vegetarian), before returning to 1982 and her birth.

Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, thirty-four Korean age. She got married three years ago and had a daughter last year. She rents a small apartment on the outskirts of Seoul with her husband Jung Daehyun, thirty-six, and daughter Jung Jiwon. Daehyun works at a mid-size IT company, and Jiyoung used to work at a small marketing agency, which she left a few weeks before her due date.

Jiyoung’s abnormal behaviour was first detected on 8 September.


The novel then returns to 1982 and her birth taking us through her birth, childhood, education, entry into the workplace and marriage.

The name Kim Jiyoung is intended to present an everywoman persona
(I wrote the novel) to show women’s shared worries,” Cho said, pointing out that Kim Ji-young is ordinary in every way. There is nothing exceptional about the character.
(from an interview in 2018 when the novel reached 1 million copies http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?u...)
and the author has her protagonist pretty much experience every form of discrimination present in the society of the time, ranging from selective abortion of the 3rd child if the fetus was female and the family already had two girls (this went on throughout the 1980s and in the early 1990s, the very height of the male-to-female ratio imbalance, the ratio for the third child and beyond was over two-to-one.) through to spycams in the women’s toilets at work.

If anything, Jiyoung’s generation suffered from coming of age while Korea was transitioning from a traditional society, with women staying at home, to a modern one, with women allowed and expected to build careers, but without support in the workplace allowing them to realistically do so:

In 1999, the year [her elder sister] turned twenty, new legislation against gender discrimination was introduced, and in 2001, the year Kim Jiyoung turned twenty, the Ministry of Gender equality was formed.

But in certain pivotal moments in women’s lives, the ‘woman’ stigma reared its head to obscure their vision, stay their hands and hold them back. The mixed signals were confusing and disconcerting.


You will note the rather dry tone, and the use of facts and figures to back up Jiyoung’s story. Indeed the novel even – see the next quote – uses footnotes, given it at times a rather academic tone.

One recurrent theme relates to maternity leave – and the fact that (as the opening quote suggests) it is or at least was almost unheard of for someone to return to work afterwards. Jiyoung’s female supervision, who features in the opening quote of my review, relates a story from a previous company:

She spotted a pregnant woman in the company dining hall and asked the people at her table how long the company’s childcare leave was, and none of the five, including one department head, knew the answer because none of them had ever seen an employee go on childcare leave.

She couldn’t picture herself at the company ten years down the road, resigned after some thought, and her boss grumbled, ‘This is why we don’t hire women.’

She replied, ‘Women don’t stay because you make it impossible for us to stay.’

The percentage of female employees who use childcare leave has increased from 20 per cent in 2003 to more than half in 2009, and four out of ten still work without childcare leave. [11] Of course, there are many women who have already left their jobs due to marriage, pregnancy or childbirth, and have not been included in the statistical sample of childcare leave. The percentage of female managers has also increased steadily but slightly from 10.22 per cent in 2006 to 18.37 per cent in 2014, but it’s not even two out of ten yet. [12]

References:
[11] Yun Jeonghye, ‘Current use of Parental leave and Its Implications’, Report on Employment Trends, July 2015.
[12] 2015 Reports on Employment and Labor, Ministry of labor, pp. 83– 84.


But it isn’t all dry – I loved this interview anecdote when three female graduates are interviewed together by a panel:

The last question came from a middle-aged male trustee who’d been sitting at the end of the table and nodding without a word up until that point. ‘you’re at a meeting with a client company. The client gets, you know, handsy. Squeezing your shoulder, grazing your thigh. you know what I mean? yeah? How will you handle that situation? let’s start with Ms Kim Jiyoung.’

Jiyoung didn’t want to panic like an idiot or lose points by being too firm, so she shot for the middle. ‘I’ll find a natural way to leave the room. like going to the toilet or getting research data.’

The second interviewee asserted that it was clearly sexual harassment and that she would tell him to stop right away. If he didn’t, she would press charges. The male trustee raised an eyebrow and wrote something down, which made Jiyoung flinch.

‘I would check my outfit and attitude,’ said the final interviewee, who had had the longest to think of an answer, ‘to see if there were any problems with it, and fix anything that may have induced the inappropriate behaviour in the client.’

The second interviewee heaved an audible, baffled sigh. Jiyoung was chagrined by the answer, but regret set in as she thought the third woman’s answer probably got the most points, and hated herself for thinking that.


Who passed the interview? ….. none of them. There's no right answer, so that female candidates are essentially disqualified.

And much is redeemed by the powerful final section of the book, which explains the dry tone of the novel so far and what it is we have just read, as well as providing a rather devastating final line.

Recommended.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,199 reviews2,225 followers
July 22, 2020
5/5stars

This was WONDERFUL. Such an amazing exploration and discussion of the misogyny that occurs in patriarchal societies from the moment a girl is conceived until she’s an adult. This book really managed to hit the majority of problems within the topic, and although we specifically follow a woman in South Korea, this is VERY relevant for ALL places.

Everyone should read this. Women will relate, millennials will also relate and men will learn more about women than they ever have before. Cho Namjoo really put women’s experiences and feelings into the most succinct prose that I think anyone could read and fully understand.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
Read
July 8, 2021
“While offenders were in fear of losing a small part of their privilege, the victims were running the risk of losing everything.”

I have to admit that this book didn't cut it for me. The premise is exciting and I enjoyed the story at first but my biggest issue was the prose and the narrative aspect. I grew really bored real quick because the writing was bland and matter-of-fact, nothing imaginative or magnetic about it. For all I know, some things got lost in translation but I doubt that's the whole reason. It's frustrating because I was super invested in the book's central theme - shedding light on a deeply misogynistic society that undermines and silences women in all aspects of life - but that point was made and understood rather quickly and it would have needed a more intriguing plot or at least a compelling style of writing to keep me invested in the storytelling aspect of the book. As a result, I was enraged at the injustice, yes, but I didn't actually connect with any of the characters on an emotional level or cared very much where the story went.

That being said, I think it's an empowering and important book that has clearly started a crucial and long-overdue debate in Korea and beyond. While gender-based discrimination is a global issue it still looks and works differently in different cultures and communities, since these unjust systems are rooted in history, religion, politics and culture. And we all know these aspects vary from country to country. Mainstream feminist debate often happens in a westernised, euro-centric context, and this context forgets and erases concerns from people and communities outside of it. That's why it's so great that this book was translated into so many languages and has become a huge success.

The novel discusses class and (binary) gender. The focus is on the power imbalance between men and women, but I would have loved to hear how this also affects trans and queer people. Trans women are women (duh), and while I don't expect this book to be a passionate battle cry against the cis-tem, I think feminism is at its most powerful when it's intersectional. This book is not intersectional.

All in all, an important book but one that left me wanting.

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