Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

- Cho Nam-Joo

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Kim Jiyoung is a girl born to a mother whose in-laws wanted a boy.

Kim Jiyoung is a sister made to share a room while her brother gets one of his own.

Kim Jiyoung is a female preyed upon by male teachers at school. Kim Jiyoung is a daughter whose father blames her when she is harassed late at night.

Kim Jiyoung is a good student who doesn’t get put forward for internships. Kim Jiyoung is a model employee but gets overlooked for promotion. Kim Jiyoung is a wife who gives up her career and independence for a life of domesticity.

Kim Jiyoung has started acting strangely.

Kim Jiyoung is depressed.

Kim Jiyoung is mad.

Kim Jiyoung is her own woman.

Kim Jiyoung is every woman.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the South Korean sensation that has got the whole world talking. The life story of one young woman born at the end of the twentieth century raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all.


My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:

All of them ... wanted this case to be resolved soon so that they could go back to their lives. While offenders were in fear of losing a small part of their privilege, the victims were running the risk of losing everything.

The level of anger this book left me with makes me wish I could just post a (large) selection of quotes and just leave it at that. But that would be a disservice to this book and its message. A message that every woman in the world knows from experience and, as this book makes so painfully clear, one that men only acknowledge when forced to confront how it affects their own life and their privilege.

I was at first confused and slightly thrown off by the fiction/non-fiction style of writing, not entirely sure what I was reading. It seemed to fluctuate between story/case report/essay/clinical notes, all with footnotes and sources. Because of this, I wasn’t entirely attuned to the emotions I was experiencing while I read. When I reached the end I felt relieved because someone understood, they were recognizing Kim Jiyoung’s struggle and the struggle of women they knew. It was such a false sense of security, almost instantly ripped away to reveal the bubbling cauldron of anger that had been building throughout the book. So used to concealing and ignoring these feelings I was surprised at how deeply I was experiencing them, coerced by the sheer audacity of having it written out in front of me. The objectification of Kim Jiyoung by this type of story-telling clearly portrayed the objectification and discrimination of women, not only in Korea but worldwide.

This emotional response got me to three stars. The style of writing, while effective, was not captivating and I struggled to push myself through. It paid off in the end but I’m not convinced this style would work for everyone. I’m sure many others struggled to finish or didn’t at all as, despite the relatively short length, it felt much longer.

It’s true that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 has been hugely successful both in Korea and globally with its timely and important message. It can’t be ignored, however, that Korean celebrities have faced backlash, from K-pop idols to actresses. Some for saying they read the book, others for being cast in the film based on the book, and even one that I read about who faced internet trolls just for liking a post about an event related to the movie. And if its message wasn’t clear enough, it should be noted that male celebrities who have commented on or been linked to the book have faced little to no ill will from the general public.

The world had changed a great deal, but the little rules, contracts, and customs had not, which meant the world hadn’t actually changed at all.

But that night, Jiyoung got an earful from her father. “Why is your cram school so far away? Why do you talk to strangers? Why is your skirt so short?” Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be “ladylike.” That it’s your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It’s your fault for not noticing and not avoiding.

“How can you say something so backward in this day and age? Jiyoung, don’t stay out of trouble. Run wild! Run wild, you hear me?”

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