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Non-fiction titles expected in 2022: LKL’s picks

a collage of book covers mentioned in this article

In previous years this post has been, to a greater or lesser extent, a list of every non-fiction title I could find that was going to be hitting the bookshops in the coming year. As the LKL Korea Book Database has grown in size, including its stock of future publications, there are now far too many future titles to list out manually, and far too many to pretend that you can read them all in the course of a year. Besides, I don’t need to repeat manually what my technology already does for me: simply click here for the upcoming non-fiction books or here for upcoming titles across all genres.

So instead I’ll comment here on the ones I’m genuinely looking forward to (based on the publishers’ blurb and / or my knowledge of the authors’ work) and hope to find room for in my bookcase. Probably as is the way of things I’ll suffer many disappointments: too often a promising topic is let down by unnecessarily technical prose; probably too I’ll miss out on many treats through filtering out titles that don’t immediately appeal on paper.

While it would be ideal to have a nice round number of books in the list (“Top 10 non fiction titles for 2022” is much better clickbait as a headline) the fact is that there are 17. Plus a handful of titles that almost made the list, right at the end. It was painful enough pruning the list down from the 40 non-fiction titles that are in the database for 2022 (and the additional dozen or so that I still have to upload). But here is the list of titles that I’ll be seeking to acquire, with brief comments as to why:

North Koreans

The Lazarus Heist: From Hollywood to High Finance: Inside North Korea’s Global Cyber War

cover art: Lazarus Heistby Geoff White pub Penguin expected Jun 2022

Investigative journalist, author and broadcaster Geoff White is among the UK’s leading technology specialists, working for the BBC, Channel 4 News, The Sunday Times and many more. In a career spanning 20 years he has covered election hacking, the dark web, the personal data trade and the emergence of cybercrime as one of the primal … [Read More]

LKL says: the BBC podcast that gave rise to this book was totally gripping, so I’m hoping for a similarly enthralling read

The Sister

cover art: The Sisterby Lee Sung-yoon pub Pan Macmillan expected Jun 2022

The onset of Covid-19 has coincided with the dramatic rise of a young woman called Kim Yo Jong in North Korea. Stomping the world stage from the shadows of her secretive state, she is creating headlines and fevered speculation about her role and her future. She is the sister of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un … [Read More]

LKL says: I normally filter out many books on North Korea. But this one is unusual in that it is a non-fiction book introduced by Barbara J Zitwer, who has brought us so much Korean literature in translation.

The Hard Road Out: Escaping North Korea

No Image availableby Jihyun Park, Seh-Lynn Chai tr Sarah Baldwin-Beneich pub HarperNorth expected MAY 2022

The harrowing story of a woman who escaped famine and terror in North Korea, not once but twice. North Korea is an open-air prison from which there is no escape. Only a handful of men and women have succeeded. Jihyun Park is one of these rare survivors. Twice she left the land of the ‘socialist … [Read More]

LKL says: I don’t normally rush to the shops to buy the latest defector memoir. But this one is by the UK’s best known North Korean exile, and having been to a talk by Jihyun Park’s co-author Seh-Lynn Chai I have a feeling that this title will be somehow different.

North Korean Defectors in Diaspora: Identities, Mobilities, and Resettlements

No Image availableed HaeRan Shin pub Lexington Books expected Apr 2022

This edited collection investigates the mobilities, resettlement practices, and identities of North Korean defectors who have relocated to the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The contributors to this volume examine the complex nature of defection from North Korea, highlighting the ways in which defectors renegotiate their identities in order to adapt … [Read More]

LKL says: this volume includes a chapter on the relations between North and South Koreans in New Malden, a subject which is clearly of interest to us. I’m hoping this title will be a good companion piece for Jihyun Park’s memoir mentioned above.

Other memoirs

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki

cover art: I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokkiby Baek Sehee tr Anton Hur pub Bloomsbury expected Jun 2022

THE PHENOMENAL KOREAN BESTSELLER. PSYCHIATRIST: So how can I help you? ME: I don’t know, I’m – what’s the word – depressed? Do I have to go into detail? Baek Se-Hee is a successful young social media director at a publishing house when she begins seeing a psychiatrist about her – what to call it? … [Read More]

LKL says: this one will be a bit of a speculative purchase, but if Anton Hur has devoted his love and care to translating it I’m prepared to give it a try.

Reflections from Prison: 20 Years and 20 Days

Reflections from Prisonby Shin Young-bok tr Cho Byeong-eun, Jin Young-jong, Kim Hain pub Meredith Victory (Jan 2022)

Reflections from Prison is a collection of letters and essays from renowned Korean thinker Shin Young-Bok written during his 20 years as a political prisoner under the military government. ​The letters range from post cards to tiny characters squeezed onto his Army Prison daily ration of two sheets of toilet paper. They provide a window not … [Read More]

LKL says: a title that has been a set text in Korean schools, and is obviously one that has been important to South Korea’s current president. Many Koreans rate Shin’s thought highly: let’s find out why.

Song of Arirang: The Story of a Korean Rebel Revolutionary in China

Song of Arirangby Kim San, Nym Wales tr Dongyoun Hwang pub Kaya expected Aug 2022

Song of Arirang tells the true story of Korean revolutionary Kim San (Jang Jirak), who left colonized Korea as a teenager to fight against Japanese imperialism and fought alongside Mao’s Red Army during the Chinese Revolution. First published in 1941, this remarkably intimate memoir (as told to the American journalist Nym … [Read More]

LKL says: this title has been promised for a while. Let’s hope it finally reaches the shops this year.


A Cultural History of Modern Korean Literature: The Birth of Oppa

cover art: Cultural History of Modern Korean Literatureby Lee Kyounghoon tr John M Frankl pub Lexington Books expected Feb 2022

A Cultural History of Modern Korean Literature: The Birth of Oppa examines the cultural and social impact of Japanese colonialism and modernity on the wider aspects of everyday life in Korea. Selected as an outstanding work in 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences in South Korea, is by any measure a remarkable work. Lee considers … [Read More]

LKL says: probably one that I’ll be forced to read on Kindle given the cost of the hard copy, but this looks like a tempting title. I suspect I’ll find it hard going (I struggle with Yi Sang, for example, and there’s a chapter on him) but the struggle may be worth it and will probably be good for me.

The Routledge Companion to Korean Literature

cover art: Routledge Companion to Korean Literatureed Heekyoung Cho pub Routledge expected Mar 2022

The Routledge Companion to Korean Literature consists of 35 chapters written by leaders in the field, who explore significant topics and who have pioneered innovative approaches. The collection highlights the most dynamic current scholarship on Korean literature, presenting rigorous literary analysis, interdisciplinary methodologies, and transregional thinking so as to provide a valuable and inspiring resource for researchers … [Read More]

LKL says: another eye-wateringly expensive title, but with 35 chapters there’s bound to be one that is relatively accessible. Plus I’m keen to see the Appendix: what is billed as “A Comprehensive List of English Translations of Korean Literature”

Visual arts and architecture

Imaging Migration in Post-War Britain: Artists of Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Heritage

cover art: Imaging Migrationby Beccy Kennedy-Schtyk pub Routledge expected Apr 2022

This book examines the artistic practices of a range of British-based artists of East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese) heritage in order to consider the social, political and cultural effects of migration or diaspora upon their creative production. Beccy Kennedy-Schtyk demonstrates three themes: the multiplicity and expansive contemporaneity of these artists’ visual oeuvres; the … [Read More]

LKL says: Beccy was once LKL’s visual arts correspondent and I’m keen to read what she has to say about a topic that has interested me for a while.

The Borders of Chinese Architecture

cover art: Borders of Chinese Architectureby Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt pub Harvard University Press expected Mar 2022

An internationally acclaimed expert explains why Chinese-style architecture has remained so consistent for two thousand years, no matter where it is built. For the last two millennia, an overwhelming number of Chinese buildings have been elevated on platforms, supported by pillars, and covered by ceramic-tile roofs. Less obvious features, like the brackets connecting the pillars … [Read More]

LKL says: we haven’t come across all that many accessible books on traditional Korean architecture, and hope this will provide a useful context, compare and contrast, for the books we have managed to identify.

Park Seo-Bo: Écriture

cover art: Park Seo-bo: Ecritureed Rosa Maria Falvo pub Rizzoli expected Apr 2022

This is the definitive monograph on the “godfather” of Korean contemporary art, master painter Park Seo-Bo, also the founder of Korea’s Dansaekhwa movement. Park Seo-Bo was born in 1931, in Yecheon, Gyeongbuk, South Korea, as part of a generation that was deeply affected by the Korean War (1950–1953). While in Paris in 1961, he initially … [Read More]

LKL says: a monograph on one of Korea’s most influential post-war artists is a must-read.

Past and Present

Gwangju Uprising: The Rebellion for Democracy in South Korea

cover art: Gwangju Uprisingby Hwang Sok-yong, Jeon Yong-ho, Lee Jae-eui tr Slin Jung pub Verso expected Apr 2022

The essential account of the South Korean 1980 pro-democracy rebellion On 18 May 1980, student activists gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to protest the martial law government of General Chun Doo-hwan. The security forces responded with unmitigated violence. Hundreds of students, activists and citizens were arrested, tortured and murdered. This fresh translation … [Read More]

LKL says: a companion piece to last year’s translation of Hwang Sok-yong’s memoirs, this might not be bedtime reading but an important reference work.

A Global History of Ginseng: Imperialism, Modernity and Orientalism

A Global History of Ginsengby Heasim Sul pub Routledge expected Jul 2022

Sul’s history of the international ginseng trade reveals the cultural aspects of international capitalism and the impact of this single commodity on relations between East and West. Ginseng emerged as a major international commodity in the seventeenth century, when the East India Company began trading it westward. Europeans were drawn to the plant’s efficacy as … [Read More]

LKL says: while this is not a Korea-specific title, it provides an opportunity to put one of Korea’s most prized natural exports in historical context

Korea and the Fall of the Mongol Empire: Alliance, Upheaval, and the Rise of a New East Asian Order

Fall of the Mongol Empireby David M Robinson pub Cambridge University Press expected Apr 2022

Korea and the Fall of the Mongol Empire explores the experiences of the enigmatic and controversial King Gongmin of Goryeo, Wang Gi, as he navigated the upheavals of the mid-fourteenth century, including the collapse of the Mongol Empire and the rise of its successors in West, Central, and East Asia. Drawing on a wealth of … [Read More]

LKL says: my historical reading has hitherto focused too much on the Joseon dynasty and this is an opportunity to look further back, at the same time learning more about Goryeo’s powerful neighbour (another knowledge gap).

Spirit Power: Politics and Religion in Korea’s American Century

cover art for Spirit Powerby Heonik Kwon, Jun Hwan Park pub Fordham University Press expected Jul 2022

Spirit Power explores the manifestation of the American Century in Korean history with a focus on religious culture. It looks back on the encounter with American missionary power from the late nineteenth century, and the long political struggles against the country’s indigenous popular religious heritage during the colonial and postcolonial eras. The book brings an anthropology … [Read More]

LKL says: we enjoyed Kwon’s After the Korean War and this one looks equally interesting.

Confucian Reform in Chosun Korea: Yu Hyŏngwŏn’s Pan’gye surok

cover art for Confucian Reform in Chosun Koreaby Bae Woosung, Sonny Kim, Yu Hyŏngwŏn pub Routledge expected Jun 2022

Pan’gye surok (or “Pan’gye’s Random Jottings”) was written by the Korean scholar and social critic Yu Hyŏngwŏn (1622-1673), who proposed to reform the Joseon dynasty and realise an ideal Confucian society. It was recognised as a leading work of political science by Yu’s contemporaries and continues to be a key text in understanding the intellectual culture … [Read More]

LKL says: this is a bit of a wildcard. I suspect, if I buy it, I will dip into it only to find it too complicated. But it’s worth a try.

The ones that almost made the list

Do let us know of any titles we’ve missed via our book submission form or our contact form. Happy reading.

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