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Summary and book reviews of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

A Novel

by Cho Nam-joo, Jamie Chang

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo, Jamie Chang X
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo, Jamie Chang
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2020, 176 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is less of a character study than an extrapolation of the lived experiences of a generation of women in South Korea. An understanding of Cho Nam-Joo's intentions and the context of the setting is essential to appreciating the novel. It is plotless and straightforward in a way that could be perceived as artless, or curiously devoid of emotion. And yet it simmers with untapped fury, destined to resonate as strongly with Western readers as it has in its native country...continued

Full Review Members Only (640 words).

(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Cho's clinical prose is bolstered with figures and footnotes to illustrate how ordinary Jiyoung's experience is.... When Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, was published in Korea in 2016, it was received as a cultural call to arms....Like Bong Joon Ho's Academy Award-winning film Parasite, which unleashed a debate about class disparities in South Korea, Cho's novel was treated as a social treatise as much as a work of art.

New York Times Book Review
This novel is about the banality of the evil that is systemic misogyny... . Jiyoung, like Gregor Samsa, feels so overwhelmed by social expectations that there is no room for her in her own body; her only option is to become something ? or someone ? else.

Time
Cho Nam-Joo points to a universal dialogue around discrimination, hopelessness, and fear.

Seattle TImes
Following the life of the titular character from her mother's generation through her own childhood, young adulthood, career, marriage and eventual 'breakdown,' the book moves around in time to subtly uncover how patriarchy eats away at the psyches and bodies of women, starting before they're even born.

Domino
Chilling.

The Guardian (UK)
[Kim Jiyoung] has become both a touchstone for a conversation around feminism and gender and a lightning rod for anti-feminists who view the book as inciting misandry ... [The book] has touched a nerve globally ... The character of Kim Jiyoung can be seen as a sort of sacrifice: a protagonist who is broken in order to open up a channel for collective rage.

THe Spectator (UK)
In this fine?and beautifully translated?biography of a fictional Korean woman we encounter the real experiences of many women around the world.

Library Journal
Cho deploys a formal, almost clinical prose style that subtly but effectively reinforces the challenges Korean women like Jiyoung endure throughout their lives in multiple contexts?familial, educational, and work-related.

Kirkus Reviews
The book's strength lies in how succinctly Cho captures the relentless buildup of sexism and gender discrimination over the course of one woman's life... The story perfectly captures misogynies large and small that will be recognizable to many.

Publishers Weekly
While Cho’s message-driven narrative will leave readers wishing for more complexity, the brutal, bleak conclusion demonstrates Cho’s mastery of irony. This will stir readers to consider the myriad factors that diminish women’s rights throughout the world.

Booklist (starred review)
Cho's narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes).... Cho's matter-of-fact delivery underscores the pervasive gender imbalance, while just containing the empathic rage. Her final chapter, "2016," written as Jiyoung's therapist's report?his claims of being "aware" and "enlightened" only damning him further as an entitled troll?proves to be narrative genius.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Feminist Movements in South Korea

Film promotional image for Kim Jiyoung Born 1982South Korean society has long been profoundly patriarchal, with traditional expectations that designate men as breadwinners and women as homemakers remaining intact even as more women have entered the workforce. According to a 2017 report, Korea has the highest gender pay gap among all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, with women earning just 63 percent of their male counterparts' salaries.

Naturally, several movements have developed in response to this glaring disparity in how men and women are treated in South Korea. It wasn't until 1987 that the first institutional feminist organization, Korea Women's Association United (KWAU), was formed to address questions of gender inequality, democracy, and ...

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