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Kyung-sook Shin biography

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Kyung-sook Shin
Photo: Lee Byungryul

Kyung-sook Shin

How to pronounce Kyung-sook Shin: SHINN-kyung-SOOK (like "suc" in "sucrose")

Kyung-sook Shin Biography

International bestselling author Kyung-sook Shin has garnered unprecedented levels of success for her novel, Please Look After Mom. Originally published in South Korea in 2008 and having sold over a million and a half copies, it is now the first of her books to be translated into English and is scheduled to be published in nineteen countries worldwide.

Born in 1963 in Jeolla Province in South Korea to a large family, Shin left home at age 16 to pursue an education in Seoul, as her parents were subsistence farmers and did not have the financial means to send her to high school. She attended the Seoul Institute of the Arts as a creative writing major, taking classes at night and working during the day, and in 1985 she published her first novella entitled Winter's Fable, which earned her the Munye Joongang Literary Newcomer's Prize.

However, Shin's work didn't receive public attention until 1993 when she published a short-story collection entitled Where the Harmonium Once Stood. It is considered a landmark book and a turning point in Korean literary style; before its publication, Korean literature was heavily charged with political themes, whereas Shin's book explored the depths of humanity.

According to Korean Modern Literature in Translation, "Her writing is characterized by a profound and unique point of view focusing on the human mind, featuring colorful prose utilizing symbolism and metaphor that captures the minute details of life's subtle trials and tribulations. Shin is also known for her expressive and heartfelt narrative style."

The following is a list of some of the awards Shin's books have won:

  • 1985: The Munye Joongang Literary Newcomer's Prize for Winter's Fable
  • 1993: The Hankuk Ilbo Literary Award for Where the Harmonium Once Stood
  • 1995: Hyundae Literary Award for Whenever I Take A Deep Breath
  • 1996: Manhae Literary Prize for A Lone Room
  • 1997: Dong-in Literary Award for When Will He Come
  • 2000: 21st Century Literary Prize for The Place Where He Doesn't Know
  • 2001: Yi Sang Literary Prize for Buseok Temple
  • 2006: Oh Young-soo Literary Prize for Linden Tree in Front of the Castle Gate
  • 2009: Prix de l'Inaperçu for A Lone Room
  • 2011: The Man Asian Literary Prize for Please Look After Mom

Author of over a dozen works of both fiction and non-fiction, Shin's books are widely read and considered staples of Korean literature. She is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City.



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