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Best Books About Korea

Recommendations from 11 articles, Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, Peter King and 7 others.
30 books on the list
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Human Acts
A Novel
Han Kang - Jan 17, 2017 (first published in 2014)
Goodreads Rating
From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected ch...
Nothing to Envy
Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Barbara Demick - Sep 20, 2010
Goodreads Rating
Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journali...
Pachinko
Min Jin Lee - Nov 14, 2017
Goodreads Rating
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister pas...
The Island of Sea Women
A Novel
Lisa See - Mar 10, 2020 (first published in 2019)
Goodreads Rating
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a lif...
The Aquariums of Pyongyang
Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
Chol-Hwan Kang - Aug 24, 2005 (first published in 2001)
Goodreads Rating
"Destined to become a classic" (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking), this harrowing memoir of life inside North Korea was the first account to emerge from the notoriously secretive country -- and it remains one of the most terrifying. Amid escalating nuclear tensions, Kim Jong-un and North Korea's other leaders have kept a tight grasp on the...
When My Name Was Keoko
Linda Sue Park - Apr 17, 2012 (first published in 2002)
Goodreads Rating
Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, live in Korea with their parents. Because Korea is under Japanese occupation, the children study Japanese and speak it at school. Their own language, their flag, the folktales Uncle tells them—even their names—are all part of the Korean culture that is now forbidden. When World War II comes to Korea, Sun-hee ...
Please Look After Mom
Kyung-Sook Shin - Apr 03, 2012 (first published in 2008)
Goodreads Rating
MAN ASIAN LITERARY PRIZE WINNERWhen sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, her family begins a desperate search to find her. Yet as long-held secrets and private sorrows begin to reveal themselves, they are forced to wonder: how well did they actually know the woman they called Mom? To...
The Real North Korea
Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia
Andrei Lankov - Dec 22, 2014 (first published in 2013)
Goodreads Rating
Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been. A native of the former Soviet Union, he lived as an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980s. He has studied it for his entire career, using his fluency in Korean and personal contacts to build a rich, nuanced understanding. In The Real North Korea, Lankov substitutes cold, clear analys...
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader
North Korea and the Kim Dynasty
Bradley K. Martin - Jan 10, 2006 (first published in 2004)
Goodreads Rating
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader offers in-depth portraits of North Korea's two ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Lifting North Korea's curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book will take readers inside a society, that to a Westerner, will appear to be from another planet. Subsisting on a diet sho...
Without You, There Is No Us
Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea's Elite
Suki Kim - Oct 13, 2015 (first published in 2014)
Goodreads Rating
A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign   Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but grad...
Recommended by
Jon StewartPeter King
Drifting House
Krys Lee - Dec 24, 2012
Goodreads Rating
Set in Korea and the United States from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present. Amid the famine in North Korea, the financial crisis of South Korea, and the cramped apartments and Korea...
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang
The Impossible State by Victor Cha
North of the DMZ by Andrei Lankov
I'll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin
The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
The White Book by Han Kang
North Korea Confidential by Daniel Tudor
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
The Court Dancer by Kyung-Sook Shin
At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong
Blood Sisters by Kim Yideum
Flowers of Mold & Other Stories by Seong-Nan Ha
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong