Cover image for Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 = Palsip yi nyeon saeng Kim Jiyeong
Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 = Palsip yi nyeon saeng Kim Jiyeong
Physical Description:
162 pages ; 22 cm

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Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person.In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old "millennial everywoman," she has recently left her white-collar desk job--in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time--as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women--alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung's entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist--a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her--from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women's restroom and post their photos online. In her father's eyes, it is Jiyoung's fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband's eyes, it is Jiyoung's duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child--to put them first.Jiyoung's painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons "family planning" birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?Rendered in minimalist yet lacerating prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sits at the center of our global #MeToo movement and announces the arrival of writer of international significance.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cho's spirited debut offers a picture of rampant sexism in contemporary South Korea through the experience of a frustrated, subjugated, 33-year-old housewife. At a gathering with her husband Jung Daehyun's family, Kim Jiyoung suddenly speaks up to her father in law, questioning the cultural expectation that she bend over backward to serve them. A distressed, apologetic Daehyun insists to his parents that "she's not well," and coaxes Jiyoung to see a psychiatrist whose report on Jiyoung forms the novel, offering insight on the challenges she's faced. Jiyoung grew up in Seoul as a middle child with an older sister and younger brother, and learned from her grandmother to accept that boys receive special treatment. At her school, she is punished for eating lunch too slowly despite being given much less time than the boys. While the psychiatrist recognizes how sexism has shaped Jiyoung and reflects on his privilege as a man, he concludes his report without resolving to offer support and validation. While Cho's message-driven narrative will leave readers wishing for more complexity, the brutal, bleak conclusion demonstrates Cho's mastery of irony. This will stir readers to consider the myriad factors that diminish women's rights throughout the world. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

A 33-year-old woman in Seoul slowly breaks under the burden of misogyny she's been facing all her life.Kim Jiyoung's life is typical of a woman in South Korea. Born the second of three siblings, with an older sister and younger brother, her experiences with patriarchy begin early. At home, her brother gets preferential treatment and less responsibility. At school, she's told that boys who bully her just like her. Though her mother encourages and supports her in myriad ways, including making sure she goes to university and follows her heart, Jiyoung grows to realize that in every aspect of life and work, women are dehumanized, devalued, and objectified. The book's strength lies in how succinctly Cho captures the relentless buildup of sexism and gender discrimination over the course of one woman's life. With clinical detachment, the book covers Jiyoung's childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, first job, and, finally, marriage and motherhood. The pressure of the patriarchy is so incessant that she starts to dissociate, transforming into other women she's known, like her mother and her college friend. The central critique of patriarchy is clearlyand necessarilytied in to that of capitalism. Jiyoung wonders, as she catalogs the ways in which the world is built to accommodate "maximum output with minimum input...who'll be the last one standing in a world with these priorities, and will they be happy?" To be clear, there's nothing revolutionary hereit's basically feminism 101 but in novel form, complete with occasional footnotes. There is not a single move to recognize anything outside of a binary gender. But the story perfectly captures misogynies large and small that will be recognizable to many.A compelling story about a woman in a deeply patriarchal society. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Already an international best-seller, television scriptwriter Cho's debut novel has been credited with helping to launch Korea's new feminist movement. The fact that gender inequity is insidiously pervasive throughout the world will guarantee that this tale has immediate resonance, and its smoothly accessible, albeit British English vernacular-inclined, translation by award-winning translator Chang will ensure appreciative Anglophone audiences. Cho's narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes). She opens with August, 2015, immediately divulging the fragile mental state of her titular Kim Jiyoung, who now as a wife and mother has developed the disturbing tendency to suddenly become other people she's known, both living and dead. Through four chronological milestones childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and marriage Cho presents what happened in the prior 33 years that actuated Jiyoung's abnormal behavior; each period is marked by gross misogyny, from microaggressions to bullying to abuse to unrelenting dismissal. Cho's matter-of-fact delivery underscores the pervasive gender imbalance, while just containing the empathic rage. Her final chapter, 2016, written as Jiyoung's therapist's report his claims of being aware and enlightened only damning him further as an entitled troll proves to be narrative genius.--Terry Hong Copyright 2020 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Korean author Cho's semiautobiographical portrayal of life in contemporary Korea opens with Kim Jiyoung's husband, Daehyun, suspecting that she has had a psychotic break. Jiyoung had begun to show signs that other people, including her mother and a dead friend, have possessed her mind and spirit. To relay Jiyoung's story, Cho deploys a formal, almost clinical prose style that subtly but effectively reinforces the challenges Korean women like Jiyoung endure throughout their lives in multiple contexts--familial, educational, and work-related. Clever footnotes embedded in the text provide economic and social statistics to confirm the almost rampant misogyny. Less effective is the introduction of a framing narrative by a male psychiatrist toward the story's end. Though the doctor seems compassionate, even trying momentarily to draw parallels between Jiyoung's troubles and those of other women he knows, this new narrative voice seems abrupt. VERDICT A relatively quick read at under 200 pages, the novel was originally published in 2016 and is credited with launching Korea's own #MeToo moment. It effectively communicates the realities Korean women face, especially discrimination in the workplace, rampant sexual harassment, and the nearly impossible challenge of balancing motherhood with career aspirations. [See Prepub Alert, 10/7/19.]--Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis