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Fiction in English

Here’s a work-in-progress listing of Korea-related fiction written in English – by Koreans or about Koreans / Korea. Titles are sorted in date of publication, most recent first.

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If I Had Your Face
Frances Cha
Viking, 2020

From the publisher’s website: ‘Absolutely stunning. . . Assured, bold, and electrifying’ Taylor Jenkins Reid, Sunday Times bestselling author of DAISY JONES & THE SIX ‘One of the buzziest debuts of the year, If I Had Your Face transports readers to glittering, futuristic Seoul… Essential reading’ Vogue If I Had Your Face plunges us into the mesmerizing world of contemporary Seoul […] (Link to online store)

East Goes West
Younghill Kang
Penguin, 2019

From the publisher’s website: Foreword by Alexander Chee | Afterword by Sunyoung Lee | Notes by Sunyoung Lee Having fled Japanese-occupied Korea for the gleaming promise of the United States with nothing but four dollars and a suitcase full of Shakespeare to his name, the young, idealistic Chungpa Han arrives in a New York teeming […] (Link to online store)

White Chrysanthemum
Mary Lynn Bracht
Penguin, 2018
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Publisher description: ‘Look for your sister after each dive. Never forget. If you see her, you are safe.’ Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Pachinko
Min Jin Lee
Apollo, 2017
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Publisher description: Yeongdo, Korea 1911. In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a […] (Link to online store)

Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas
Ed Esther Kim Lee
Duke University Press, 2012

From the publisher’s website: Showcasing the dynamism of contemporary Korean diasporic theater, this anthology features seven plays by second-generation Korean diasporic writers from the United States, Canada, and Chile. By bringing the plays together in this collection, Esther Kim Lee highlights the themes and styles that have enlivened Korean diasporic theater in the Americas since […] (Link to online store)

The Orphan Master’s Son
Adam Johnson
Doubleday, 2012
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Publisher’s description: Citizens of our beloved Democratic Republic of North Korea! Imagine the life of an orphan boy from nowhere who is plucked from his orphanage by the military, to be trained as a tunnel assassin, a kidnapper, a spy. He has no father but the State, no sweetheart but Sun Moon, the greatest opera […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Drifting House
Krys Lee
Faber, 2012
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A haunting and unforgettable debut spanning the last seventy years of Korean history, including the BBC Short Story Prize shortlisted story ‘The Goose Father’. Alternating between the lives of Koreans struggling through seventy years of turbulent, post-World War II history in their homeland and the communities of Korean immigrants grappling with assimilation in the United […] (Link to online store)

Inspector O series
James Church
Minotaur Books, 2006
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Publisher description: James Church introduces readers to one of the most unique detectives to appear on page in years—the elusive Inspector O. This mystery series brings readers into the enigmatic world of North Korea, as Inspector O finds himself tangled in conspiracies and cover-ups. The series includes the novels A Corpse in the Koryo, Hidden Moon, Bamboo and […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

War Trash
Ha Jin
Vintage, 2004
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Publisher description: Ha Jin’s masterful new novel casts a searchlight into a forgotten corner of modern history, the experience of Chinese soldiers held in U.S. POW camps during the Korean War. In 1951 Yu Yuan, a scholarly and self-effacing clerical officer in Mao’s “volunteer” army, is taken prisoner south of the 38th Parallel. Because he […] (Link to online store)

Sueño and Bascom mystery series
Martin Limón
Soho Press, 2003
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Publisher description: Sergeant George Sueño and his partner, Ernie Bascom, are stationed in Korea with the US 8th Army in the 1970s. They investigate crimes in which US Army personnel might have been involved. Meanwhile, George, who is very interested in Korea and its culture, does what he can to soften everyone’s bad opinion of […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Surfacing Sadness: A Centennial of Korean-American Literature 1903-2003
Ed Yearn Hong Choi, Haeng Ja Kim
Homa + Sekey, 2003

This book is published to commemorate the centennial of the first landing of Korean immigrants in America in 1903. An anthology of poems, essays and short stories by thirty-seven Korean-American writers, Surfacing Sadness is the first serious effort to bring together the Korean-American literary experiences to join mainstream American literature. The book primarily contains translations […] (Link to online store)

Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land
Ed Wesley Brown, Amy Ling
Persea, 2003

Only listed on this site because it contains a short story by Kim Yong-ik entitled They Won’t Crack it Open, highly rated by Charles over at KTLit.com. Amazon has the following blurb about the collection: The acclaimed multicultural fiction anthology, updated to include recent writers. Thirty-seven short stories from 1900 to the present, written by […] (Link to online store)

So Far from the Bamboo Grove
Yoko Kawashima Watkins
Harper Collins, 1986
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From the back cover: In the final days of World War II, Koreans were determined to take back control of their country from the Japanese and end the suffering caused by the Japanese occupation. As an eleven-year-old girl living with her Japanese family in northern Korea, Yoko is suddenly fleeing for her life with her […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

The Shoes from Yang San Valley
Kim Yong-ik
Doubleday, 1970

Alone in his war-torn homeland, a young Korean boy has only the memory of a special pair of silk brocade shoes to remind him of the good days of the past and give him hope for the future. Written in English. With illustrations by Park Minja (Link to online store)

Love in Winter
Kim Yong-ik
Doubleday, 1969

An anthology of young adult stories that take place in early Korea. Illustrated by Park Minja The review by an Amazon user is very enthusiastic. (Link to online store)

The Martyred
Richard E Kim
Penguin, 1964
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Publisher description: During the early weeks of the Korean War, Captain Lee, a young South Korean officer, is ordered to investigate the kidnapping and mass murder of North Korean ministers by Communist forces. For propaganda purposes, the priests are declared martyrs, but as he delves into the crime, Lee finds himself asking: What if they […] (Link to online store) LKL Review

Living Reed
Pearl Buck
Moyer Bell, 1963
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Synopsis from Goodreads and Amazon: The Living Reed follows four generations of one family, the Kims, beginning with Il-han and his father, both advisors to the royal family in Korea. When Japan invades and the queen is killed, Il-han takes his family into hiding. In the ensuing years, he and his family take part in […] (Link to online store) LKL Review