Korean Literature and Historical Fiction Books
With the capitulation of the Japan in August 1945 Korea did not regain freedom. Instead Korea was partitioned along the 38th parallel, with North Korea under Soviet occupation and South Korea under US occupation and other allied states. As a result of the 1950- 1953 Korean War, When North Korea supported by the Soviet Union invaded South Korea in 1950 the Korean War (1950-1953) broke out and North Korea under the leadership of Kim Il-sung was sealed off and remained an isolated country up to the present. The US became the destination of many Koreans fleeing the uncertain political and economic situation of their home country.
From 1953 onwards South Korea saw an enormous transformation from a rural society into an urban and industrial state. Literature in the 1970's dealt with the concerns of this rapid industrialisation, such as the neglect of farmers and the collapse of the traditional Korean value system. Until the 1980’s, Korean literature was largely unknown outside the peninsula. But with the increasing popularity of Korean film came the interest in Korean literature. Contemporary literature in South Korea deals with the daily lives of people and the consequences of the Korean War: the national division is still an important theme in Korean literature.
North Korea's literature is shaped and controlled by the State. All works must go through censorship and must express a given amount of praise for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Kim Il-sung himself was actually the most well known writer of this state. Outside Korea we only know the works of North Korean’s that fled their country. These ‘exile literature’ usually contains grim accounts of life in North Korea, such as Kang Chol-hwan's ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’ (2000) and Hyok Kang's ‘This is Paradise’ (2005).
More Bestsellers and Recommended Books North and South Korea
- based on Goodreads, Amazon and reviews in journals -
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee, 2017
About four generations of a Korean family, beginning in Japanese-occupied Korea to the late 1980s. Sunja, the daughter of a poor family, ruins her family’s reputation when she becomes pregnant. Betrayed by her secret lover, Sunja finds salvation when a young minister offers to marry her and brings her to Japan to start a new life….
Set in Seoul in the end of the 1970’s Jisun and Namin, one woman from a rich background and the other trying her best to get out of her family’s poverty struggle to find their way during South Korea's economic miracle. But when the two young women meet the charming student Sunam their lives change forever…
Everything Belongs to Us - Yoojin Grace Wuertz, 2017
The Vegetarian: A Novel - Han Kang 2016
Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But dreams of blood and cruelty torture Yeong-hye at night and onde day she decides to become a vegetarian. This decision sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home interrupting her marriage and the relations with the people she loves.
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016
The Calligrapher's Daughter: A Novel
Set in the early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the daughter of a calligrapher, is sent to serve in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. But when the king is assassinated, the centuries-old dynasty comes to its end and Najin wants to choose her own path, despite the oppressive traditions and the political turmoil of the war and the Japanese occupation.
Eugenia Kim 2009
When My Name Was Keoko
Linda Sue Park 2012
Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, live in Korea with their parents. Because Korea is under Japanese occupation, the children have to study Japanese and speak it at school. When World War II breaks out the Japanese expect their Korean subjects to fight on their side. Tae-yul got enlisted in the Japanese army, whilst his uncle is suspected of aiding the Korean resistance. Sun-hee stays behind, entrusted with the life-and-death secrets of a family at war.
The night before Janie’s sister, Hannah, is born, her grandmother tells her a story about the past and Janie is told to keep Hannah safe. Years later, when Hannah cuts all ties with her family and disappears, Janie goes to find her. Thus begins a journey that will force her to confront the truth behind her parents’ sudden move to America twenty years earlier, and her own conflicted feelings toward Hannah.
Drifting House - Krys Lee 2012
The stories in Drifting house narrates the circumstances of Korean immigrants in the United States and the struggle to adapt to the Western world, the traumatic memories of famine in North Korea and the reasons to leave the country. More about Krys Lee.
The Guest: A Novel - Sok-Yong Hwang 2001
Forty years after the Korean War (1950-1953) Ryu Yosop, now living in America, returns back to his native country Korea and tells us the story of the atrocities that took place in his home village. By visiting relatives and friends Ryu Yosop tries to come to terms with his past and with the role of his brother in the massacre.