Book Review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

 “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.”

― Cho Nam-Joo, 82년생 김지영

Cho Nam-Joo wrote a book titled Kim Ji-young, Born 1982. Cho, a veteran TV scriptwriter, took two months to compose the novel because, in her opinion, the life of the main character Kim Ji-young isn't all that dissimilar from her. Because of this, she was able to write so rapidly without much planning. The book was published by Minumsa in October 2016, it has sold more than 1 million copies as of November 27, 2018, making it the first million-selling Korean book since 2009's Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-sook.

The main character, a housewife who later develops melancholy after becoming a stay-at-home mother, is the core of the narrative, which also emphasizes the title character's exposure to everyday sexism since she was a little girl.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

Kim Ji-young is the most common name for Korean women born in the 1980s.
Kim Ji-young is representative of her generation:

At home, she is an unfavoured sister to her princeling little brother.

In primary school, she is a girl who has to line up behind the boys at lunchtime.
In high school, she is a daughter whose father blames her for being harassed late at night.
In university, she is a good student who doesn’t get put forward for internships by her professor.
In the office, she is an exemplary employee who is overlooked for promotion by her manager.
At home, she is a wife who has given up her career to take care of her husband and her baby.
Kim Ji-young is depressed.
Kim Ji-young has started acting out.
Kim Ji-young is her own woman.
Kim Ji-young is insane.

Kim Ji-young is sent by her husband to a psychiatrist.
This is his clinical assessment of the everywoman in contemporary Korea.

My reaction to the novel...

I've never read a Korean novel before, but I have heard great things about this one, so I have great expectations for it. The first three chapters had me hooked. What had occurred to her definitely piqued my interest. I had a strong impression that the narrative would have some connection to supernatural literature, but I was dead wrong. The book was just 162 pages long, so I was able to read it in half a day, but I was inclined to skip several chapters since I found the plot to be so slow-moving and dull.

I did not anticipate that this book would only recount the history of the characters' experiences with gender inequality in Korea. For me, that occurred not just in Korea but, I believe, all over the world. In addition, I believed that Kim Jiyoung's mother endured more suffering than Jiyoung's, thus I had less sympathy for her. Although I am aware that everyone's phenotypic expression and level of issue tolerance varies, but reading this did not help me to fully grasp the lesson the author wants the reader to take away. While I did feel bad for her, my heartache was actually greater for her husband and Jiyoung's mother. I'm not sure where those positive reviews originated, but I don't think this book is all that fantastic.

I was expecting a more satisfying conclusion to JiYoung's narrative, but instead a psychiatrist joined the scene and hastily added his story. I wanted to read more about Jiyoung and her husband; it seemed like the doctor was rushing to wrap up Jiyoung's narrative so he could share a bit of his own with the readers. I was very annoyed.. The anecdote about the psychiatrist at the ending, in my opinion, was superfluous. It was like the author didn't know how to conclude the narrative, so she just threw in the psychiatrist's story.

Despite the fact that this book is only a few hundred pages long and can be read in a half-day, I would still prefer not to suggest it since I found the plot to be really tedious. I believed that Kim Jiyoung's predicament was not addressed with sufficient fairness. The author merely discussed her history and did not adequately address Kim Jiyoung's present. It was quite annoying. I honestly won't suggest it.

My Overall Rating: ⭐✨(1.5/5)
“People who pop a painkiller at the smallest hint of a migraine, or who need anaesthetic cream to remove a mole, demand that women giving birth should gladly endure the pain, exhaustion, and mortal fear. As if that’s maternal love. This idea of “maternal love” is spreading like religious dogma."

This doesn't hold some truth. I have seen a lot of labor pains, births, and postnatal problems in my role as a nurse in labor and child care. We urged expectant mothers to experience natural labor; if they are able to do so, it is preferable to forgo painkillers like epidurals and other analgesics. However, the truth is that we are not saying it to just make people endure the pain; rather, we are saying it because all medications, particularly anesthetics, have adverse effects. Today, however, it is up to the patients to decide if they want anesthesia, as long as they sign the consent form and are aware of any potential consequences. For me, having a painful delivery doesn't always equate to becoming a wonderful mother—motherhood is about a mother's love for her kid. It does not imply that using an epidural or another type of painkiller during labor and delivery will make you a horrible mother in the future. Being a good mother relies on each individual and the people in her life since every woman who has had children or plans to have children requires a lot of support from those who are close to her, especially their spouses, who can aid in her personal growth as a mother.


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