On reading Han Kang’s White Book by the pool

In general, I tend not to read much literary fiction. If I’m reading stuff which is unrelated to Korea, it’s likely to be either non-fiction or easy reading – a detective story or something reasonably lightweight. When it comes to Korea-related reading, until relatively recently the balance has again been in favour of non-fiction. But […]

Pachinko featured in New York Times

There’s a nice feature on Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko in last weekend’s New York Times. I enjoyed the book myself though never got around to writing a review. It’s a very different work from her first novel, Free Food for Millionaires, which I described as a combination of Sex and the City and Wall Street, and […]

An evening with Michael Breen and The New Koreans

When going to a book talk, it is all too common to find that the moderator has little knowledge of the book or its subject matter, and asks the author embarrassingly shallow questions leaving the audience and author short-changed. No such risks last night at the KCC, where the British Korean Society’s Chris Hollands conversed […]

Book review: Waxen Wings

Waxen Wings: The ACTA Koreana Anthology of Short Fiction from Korea Edited by Bruce Fulton Koryo Press, 2011, 238pp There are plenty of anthologies of Korean translated fiction available, and many of them are edited and / or translated by Bruce Fulton, usually with Ju-Chan Fulton involved in the project too. I recently enjoyed the […]

Book review: Song Sokze — The Amusing Life

Song Sokze: The Amusing Life Translated by Se-un Kim Dalkey Archive, 2016, 233pp Originally published as 재미나는 인생, Kang Publishing Ltd, 1997 The most recent book to be discussed at the KCC’s monthly book club was Song Sokze’s The Amusing Life, a collection of around 50 short “stories”. None of these pieces will detain you […]

Book review: Bandi — The Accusation

Bandi: The Accusation – Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea Translated by Deborah Smith Serpents Tail 2017, 245 pp Originally published as 고발, Chogabje.com, 2014. Mike Breen, in his book The New Koreans, describes han as “a kind of rage and helplessness that is sublimated and lingers like an inactive resentment” and is often evidenced in […]

Book review: Hwang Jungeun — One Hundred Shadows

Hwang Jungeun: One Hundred Shadows Translated by Jung Yewon Tilted Axis Press, 2016, 147pp Original published as 百의 그림자, Minumsa, 2010 The 2009 Yongsan apartment building disaster barely registered in the news media outside of Korea. But in its way it registered domestically much as the Sewol disaster did, acting as a rallying point against an […]

Book review: Park Wan-suh — Lonesome You

Park Wan-suh: Lonesome You Translated by Elizabeth Haejin Yoon Dalkey Archive, 2015, 252pp Originally published as 너무도 쓸쓸한 당신, Seoul, 1998. I came to Lonesome You with fairly neutral expectations. I had read Who Ate All the Shinga, the story of Park’s childhood in the late 1940s and through the war years. It was an interesting […]

Book Review: The Story of Hong Gildong

Anon (attr Heo Kyun): The Story of Hong Gildong Translated with an introduction and notes by Minsoo Kang Penguin, 2016, 100pp Penguin has done us a favour by bringing us this new translation of a classic Korean tale, along with a useful introduction and notes. Hong Gildong is often described as the Korean Robin Hood […]

Book review: Hwang Sun-won — Lost Souls

Hwang Sun-won: Lost Souls Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton Columbia University Press 2010, 354pp Having quite enjoyed two of Hwang Sun-won’s fuller-length stories – Trees on a Slope and Descendants of Cain – though without necessarily being enamoured of the characters of the stories they inhabited, I was looking forward to tackling Lost Souls, […]

Book review: Cheon Myeong-kwan — Modern Family

Cheon Myeong-kwan: Modern Family Translated by Kyoung-lee Park White Pine Press Korean Voices Series, 2015 Originally published as 고령화 가족 by Munhakdongne Publishing Corp, 2010 The KCC has been running its Korean Literature Nights for more than two years now. The discussion group has an enthusiastic and regular following, to the extent that seats have […]

A look back at the books of 2015

In place of our annual “LKL Awards” post, we look at some of the highlights of 2015 in the area of books, film and music. Apart from the field of literature in translation (and of course I’m talking Han Kang here), there are no clear winners or I haven’t covered enough ground to choose one. […]

Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

Paul Fischer: A Kim Jong-il Production Penguin / Viking 2015, 353pp Steven Chung: Split Screen Korea – Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema University of Minnesota Press 2014, 262pp The story of actress Choi Eun-hee and Shin Sang-ok combines elements of both romance and thriller as well as representing important phases in the history of film […]