Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 tells the story every average woman born in the early 80’s could related to. Originally written in Korean by Cho Nam-Joo, a former scriptwriter for TV programs, the book was translated into English by Jamie Chang. It vibrantly shares Jiyoung’s experiences of unfair treatments by various people in the society.

Because she was a girl, Jiyoung was expect to behave in certain ways. Even in her family, her brother was better privileged because he was born as a boy. When she’s at school, she continued to face prejudice. When she started working, she continued to encounter sexism in her workplace. When Jiyoung got married, she was restricted to certain things because she’s a wife. She also considered her choice of having a child with her husband was a private matter. But her society thought differently. She had to quit her full-time job to have and raise the child.

Throughout various stages of her life, Jiyoung experienced systemic misogyny in both personal and professional relationships. She tried to fight such discriminatory many times but failed. After being treated unfairly by various people in the society and with everything she had suppressed for many years, Jiyoung became an erupting volcano.

Despite the story being fast paced, Cho Nam Joo’s brilliant storytelling is so articulate and moving. Even it was written as a fiction, the writer included the real statistics from academic papers or articles to emphasize the certain injustice Jiyoung faced. I like that the writer gave a glimpse of Jiyoung mother’s life at some points. It showcased the way the women of one generation before were treated and how they coped through such hardships.

Although the story was set in Korea, I believe some of these issues are very universal. The story depicted the absurd prejudices towards women of various ages for being a daughter, a sister, a woman, a female colleague, a wife, and a mother. The fluidity of Jamie Chang’s translation is succinct yet still provides such an affecting narrative. It is yet another powerful read with a female protagonist.

I found the storytelling quite powerful. The translation is neat, as well. Superbly enjoyed. There’s a movie adaptation of the book and there were news about it becoming quite controversial in South Korean. I’ll probably watch it later this week.


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