I’ve been lucky to visit the bustling city of Seoul many times and as usual, books set in Korea have accompanied me on my travels. Some of my most recent reads include Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (set between Korea and Japan) and the haunting Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. 🇰🇷
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The following reading list is an exploration of South Korean literature published in English, in many varying styles, spanning from the late-sixties until the present day. While most of these are books set in Korea, a large selection of these books also take part in other countries and tell stories of the Korean immigrant experience. There are notes against each of these titles to indicate this.
I must also say, this collection of books set in Korea has some of the most beautiful and striking cover designs I’ve seen in recent times. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but kudos to these cover designers! ✨
Books Set In Korea: Library of Korean Literature
Some of these books set in Korea are from the Library of Korean Literature, a collection published by Dalkey Archive Press in collaboration with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. As they describe the collection, “it presents modern classics of Korean literature in translation, featuring the best Korean authors from the late modern period through to the present day.”
Books Set In Korea: The Shortlist
If you’re short on time and want to skip the longer list below, these are my picks for books set in Korea:
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
- Human Acts by Han Kang
- White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
Books Set In Korea
New Year: A Novel
by Pearl S. Buck, 1968
This is a story of hope and reconciliation. It is about an American father and his Eurasian son living in Korea. It is not without some soul-searching and a great deal of understanding on the part of his American wife that they get together as a family. The father is an aspiring politician in Philadelphia. Put in shock and a moral dilemma by the sudden knowledge of his son, conceived while a soldier stationed in Korea, the father weighs his political future against his responsibilities to himself and his wife. The situation is further complicated by his childless marriage.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Philadelphia.
Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood
by Richard E. Kim, 1970
In this classic tale, Richard Kim paints seven vivid scenes from a boyhood and early adolescence in Korea at the height of the Japanese occupation, 1932 to 1945. Taking its title from the grim fact that the occupiers forced the Koreans to renounce their own names and adopt Japanese names instead, the book follows one Korean family through the Japanese occupation to the surrender of the Japanese empire.
by Cho Se-Hui, 1978
The dark side of South Korea’s economic miracle emerges in The Dwarf, Cho Se-hui’s enormously popular and critically acclaimed work. First published in 1978, it speaks to the painful social costs of reckless industrialization, even as it tellingly portrays the spiritual malaise of the newly rich and powerful and a working class subject to forces beyond its control. Cho’s lean, clipped, deceptively simple style, the rapidly shifting points of view, terse dialogue, and subtle irony evoke the particularities of life in 1970s South Korea in the presence of global economic forces.
by Yi Mun-Yol, 1987
A young man’s determination to maintain his integrity in an unjust society forces him to endure a lonely and dangerous odyssey. When a governor to the King falls into rebel hands, he switches sides to save his skin. When later he is captured by royal troops, it is not only he that is condemned to death as a traitor but his sons and grandsons too. They survive by subterfuge, but though they keep their lives, they have lost their place in society.
Our Twisted Hero
by Yi Mun-Yol, 1988
When the twelve-year-old narrator of Our Twisted Hero moves to a small town and enrolls in the local school, he’s confident that his big city sophistication will establish him as a natural leader. He is shocked to find his new classmates and teacher under the spell of the class monitor. As the narrator sets out to overthrow the bully, he is threatened, teased – and finally broken.
I Have the Right to Destroy Myself
by Young-Ha Kim, 1995
A spectral, nameless narrator haunts the lost and wounded of big-city Seoul, suggesting solace in suicide. Wandering through the bright lights of their high-urban existence, C and K are brothers who fall in love with the same woman – Se-Yeon. As their lives intersect, they tear at each other in a struggle to find connection in their fast-paced, atomized world.
by Nora Okja Keller, 1997
“On the fifth anniversary of my father’s death, my mother confessed to his murder.” Thus begins Nora Okja Keller’s breathtaking first novel, which follows Beccah, a young Korean-American girl growing up in Hawaii, as she uncovers the secret of her mother’s past. Completely ignorant of her mother Akiko’s history – she was sold into prostitution in the Japanese “recreation camps” of World War II for her oldest sister’s dowry.
Note: this novel takes place in Hawaii.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
by Sun-mi Hwang, 2000
This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own. An anthem for freedom, individuality and motherhood featuring a plucky, spirited heroine who rebels against the tradition-bound world of the barnyard, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a novel of universal resonance that also opens a window on Korea, where it has captivated millions of readers.
The Old Garden
by Hwang Sok-yong, 2000
Political prisoner Hyun Woo is freed after eighteen years to find no trace of the world he knew. The friends with whom he shared utopianist dreams are gone. His Seoul is unrecognizably transformed and aggressively modernized. Yoon Hee, the woman he loved, died three years ago. A broken man, he drifts toward a small house in Kalmoe, where he and Yoon Hee once stole a few fleeting months of happiness while fleeing the authorities.
A Step from Heaven
by An Na, 2001
When Young Ju is four years old, she learns that her family is leaving their small fishing village in Korea to live in Mi Gook. Young Ju has heard enough about Mi Gook to be sure the place they are moving to is paradise, that she and her family are going to heaven. After flying through the sky for a long time, Young Ju finds out that Mi Gook is actually a regular earthly place called America.
Note: parts of this novel take place in California.
A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park, 2001
Tree-ear, an orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated–until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance.
When My Name Was Keoko
by Linda Sue Park, 2002
Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul are proud of their Korean heritage. Yet they live their lives under Japanese occupation. All students must read and write in Japanese and no one can fly the Korean flag. Hardest of all is when the Japanese Emperor forces all Koreans to take Japanese names. Sun-hee and Tae-yul become Keoko and Nobuo.
by Suki Kim, 2003
Suzy Park is a twenty-nine-year-old Korean American interpreter for the New York City court system who makes a startling and ominous discovery about her family history that will send her on a chilling quest. Five years prior, her parents – hardworking greengrocers who forfeited personal happiness for their children’s gain – were brutally murdered in an apparent robbery of their store.
Note: this novel takes place in New York.
The Language of Blood
by Jane Jeong Trenka, 2003
My name is Jeong Kyong-Ah. My ancestry includes landowners, scholars, and government officials. I have six siblings. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I come from a land of pear fields and streams, where people laugh loudly and honor their dead. Halfway around the world, I am someone else. Jane Jeong Trenka and her sister Carol were adopted by Frederick and Margaret Brauer and raised in the small, homogeneous town of Harlow, Minnesota – a place “where the sky touches the earth in uninterrupted horizon… where stoicism is stamped into the bones of each generation.” They were loved as American children without a past.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Minnesota.
Translations of Beauty
by Mia Yun, 2005
Translations of Beauty maps the tender yet tumultuous relationship of twin sisters Inah and Yunah, from their early years in South Korea to their coming-of-age in Queens, New York. At the heart of the narrative – told from Yunah’s intimate, engaging point of view – is an unforgettable event from their childhood: an accident that disfigured Inah for life, and the overwhelming sadness and guilt Yunah feels at having been spared.
Note: parts of this novel take place in New York.
by Katherine Min, 2006
Isadora Myung Hee Sohn, known as Isa, worships her mother, an exceptional beauty. Isa’s father, a scientist and professor, and an orphan, is haunted by the war in which he served as a South Korean soldier and by a painful secret that he keeps from his wife. Still mourning the death of Isa’s younger brother her parents are traditional enough to prize their dead son over their living daughter; to them, Isa only half exists.
Note: this novel takes place in New York.
Wait for Me
by An Na, 2006
Mina is the perfect daughter. Bound for Harvard, she’s Honor Society president and a straight-A student, even as she works at her family’s dry-cleaning store and helps care for her hearing impaired little sister. On the outside, Mina does everything right. On the inside, Mina knows the truth. Her life is a lie. Then, the summer before her senior year, Mina meets someone to whom she cannot lie. Ysrael, a young migrant worker who dreams of becoming a musician, comes to work for her family, and asks Mina the one question that scares her the most. What does she want?
Note: this novel takes place in San Diego.
by Kyung-ran Jo, 2007
An erotically charged, elegantly written novel that marks the first publication in English of author Kyung-Ran Jo, a literary star in Korea who has earned comparisons to Haruki Murakami. Emotionally raw and emphatically sensual, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a woman’s culinary journey toward self-restoration and revenge. When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, the celebrated young chef Jung Ji-won shuts down the cooking school she ran from their home and sinks into deep depression, losing her will to cook, her desire to eat, and even her ability to taste.
by Han Kang, 2007
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy.
Free Food for Millionaires
by Min Jin Lee, 2007
Casey Han’s four years at Princeton gave her many things, “but no job and a number of bad habits.” Casey’s parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships.
Note: this novel takes place in New York.
The Court Dancer
by Kyung-Sook Shin, 2007
Based on a remarkable true story. When a novice French diplomat arrives for an audience with the Emperor, he is enraptured by the Joseon Dynasty’s magnificent culture, then at its zenith. But all fades away when he sees Yi Jin perform the delicate traditional Dance of the Spring Oriole. Though well aware that women of the court belong to the palace, the young diplomat confesses his love to the Emperor, and gains permission for Yi Jin to accompany him back to France.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Paris.
Please Look After Mom
by Kyung-Sook Shin, 2008
When sixty-nine year old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, and vanishes, their children are consumed with loud recriminations, and are awash in sorrow and guilt. As they argue over the “Missing” flyers they are posting throughout the city – how large of a reward to offer, the best way to phrase the text – they realize that none of them have a recent photograph of Mom. Soon a larger question emerges: do they really know the woman they called Mom?
by An Na, 2008
Joyce never used to care that much about how she looked, but that was before she met JFK – John Ford Kang, the most gorgeous guy in school. And it doesn’t help that she’s constantly being compared to her beautiful older sister, Helen. Then her rich plastic-surgery-addict aunt offers Joyce a gift to “fix” a part of herself she’d never realized needed fixing – her eyes. Joyce has heard of the fold surgery – a common procedure meant to make Asian women’s eyes seem “prettier” and more “American”.
Note: this novel takes place in California.
Miles from Nowhere
by Nami Mun, 2009
Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins.
Note: this novel takes place in New York.
The Calligrapher’s Daughter
by Eugenia Kim, 2009
In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother – but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry Najin into an aristocratic family, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her to serve in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end.
At Least We Can Apologize
by Ki-ho Lee, 2009
At Least We Can Apologize focuses on an agency whose only purpose is to offer apologies – for a fee – on behalf of its clients. This seemingly insignificant service leads us into an examination of sin, guilt, and the often irrational demands of society. A kaleidoscope of minor nuisances and major grievances, this novel heralds a new comic voice in Korean letters.
by Alan Brennert, 2009
Honolulu is the rich, unforgettable story of a young “picture bride” who journeys to Hawai’i in 1914 in search of a better life. Instead of the affluent young husband and chance at an education that she has been promised, she is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on his new wife. Renaming herself Jin, she makes her own way in this strange land, finding both opportunity and prejudice.
Note: this novel takes place in Hawaii.
No One Writes Back
by Eun-Jin Jang, 2009
Communication – or the lack thereof – is the subject of this sly update of the picaresque novel. No One Writes Back is the story of a young man who leaves home with only his blind dog, an MP3 player, and a book, traveling aimlessly for three years, from motel to motel, meeting people on the road. Rather than learn the names of his fellow travelers – or even invent nicknames for them – he assigns them numbers.
by Chang-rae Lee, 2009
June Han was only a girl when the Korean War left her orphaned; Hector Brennan was a young GI who fled the petty tragedies of his small town to serve his country. When the war ended, their lives collided at a Korean orphanage where they vied for the attentions of Sylvie Tanner, the beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary wife whose elusive love seemed to transform everything.
Note: parts of this novel also take place in China, New York and Italy.
Long for This World
by Sonya Chung, 2010
Sonya Chung renders the compelling story of a troubled family straddling cultures, fleeing and searching, in her piercing and profoundly humane first novel. In 1953, on a small island in Korea, a young boy stows away on the ferry that is carrying his older brother and his wife to the mainland. Fifty-two years later, Han Hyun-kyu is on a plane flying back to Korea, leaving behind his own wife in America.
Note: parts of this novel take place in New York.
I’ll Be Right There
by Kyung-Sook Shin, 2010
Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life.
by Un-su Kim, 2010
The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger – the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill – and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin.
by Hwang Sok-yong, 2011
Seoul. On the outskirts of South Korea’s glittering metropolis is a place few people know about: a vast landfill site called Flower Island. Home to those driven from the city by poverty, is it here that 13-year-old Bugeye and his mother arrive, following his father’s internment in a government ‘re-education camp’.
This Burns My Heart
by Samuel Park, 2011
In this compelling love story set in postwar Korea in the 1960s, an unhappily married woman struggles to give her daughter a good life and to find love in a society caught between ancient tradition and change. Beautiful and ambitious, Soo-Ja Choi attempts to find happiness in a land where wives have no rights and mothers own nothing, where love remains elusive, and the only way to survive is to live the lessons of Confucian tradition: perseverance, strength, loyalty, and grace.
by Young-Ha Kim, 2012
In 1904, as the Russo-Japanese War deepened, Asia was parceled out to rising powers and the Korean empire was annexed by Japan. Facing war and the loss of their nation, more than a thousand Koreans left their homes to seek possibility elsewhere – in unknown Mexico.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Mexico and Guatemala.
by Catherine Chung, 2012
Weaving Korean folklore within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Forgotten Country is a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss, the conflict between obligation and freedom, and a family struggling to find its way out of silence and back to one another. On the night Janie waits for her sister, Hannah, to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Michigan.
by Krys Lee, 2012
An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction. Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee’s stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.
Note: some of these short stories take place in America and North Korea.
by Jung-Myung Lee, 2012
Fukuoka Prison, 1944. Beyond the prison walls the war rages; inside a man is found brutally murdered. Yuichi Watanabe, a young guard with a passion for reading, is ordered to investigate. The victim, Sugiyama – also a guard – was feared and despised throughout the prison and inquiries have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanabe is unconvinced; and as he interrogates both the suspect and Yun Dong-ju, a talented Korean poet, he begins to realise that the fearsome guard was not all he appeared to be.
Note: this novel takes place in Fukuoka, Japan.
I Hear Your Voice
by Young-Ha Kim, 2012
From one of Korea’s literary stars, a novel about two orphans from the streets of Seoul: one becomes the head of a powerful motorcycle gang, and the other follows him at all costs. In South Korea, underground motorcycle gangs attract society’s castoffs. They form groups of hundreds and speed wildly through cities at night. For Jae and Dongyu, two orphans, their motorcycles are a way of survival.
by Han Kang, 2014
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 chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.
On Such a Full Sea
by Chang-rae Lee, 2014
On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee’s elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.
Note: this novel takes place in a future dystopian America.
Pavane for a Dead Princess
by Min-gyu Park, 2014
Park Min-gyu has been celebrated and condemned for his attacks upon what he perceives as the humorlessness of contemporary Korean literature. Pavane for a Dead Princess is his attack upon the beauty-fetish that reigns over popular culture, detailing the relationship between a man with matinee-idol good looks and “the ugliest woman of the century.” To complicate matters further, Park also includes a so-called “writer’s cut” of the same story, offering alternate versions of the facts, giving the reader the opportunity to imagine all the different ways this same novel might have been written.
The Good Son
by You-Jeong Jeong, 2016
Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?
by Mary Lynn Bracht, 2016
Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.
The Library of Musical Instruments
by Kim Jung-hyuk, 2016
The second short-story collection by Kim Jung-hyuk, features a total of eight short stories. They represent the many sounds sampled by the author when he recorded over 600 kinds of musical instruments. Like instruments coming together in a symphony, the stories combine to make an opus consisting of variations on a theme.
by Cheon Myeong-Kwan, 2016
While Whale begins with Chunhee, a mysterious young brick-maker of imposing physicality who cannot speak, introduced as the Queen of Red Bricks, it quickly situates her story within a longer multi-generational saga composed of three parts. While we learn of Chunhees tragic path to her becoming someone who makes bricks of the highest quality, the novel retraces the familial circumstances that shaped her. While poignant yet brutal, Whale is also a satire of how we the general public, mass media, even artists and writers tend to romanticize voiceless figures of history.
See reviews (this title can be hard to find)
Daughters of the Dragon
by William Andrews, 2016
During World War II, the Japanese forced 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves or “comfort women” for their soldiers. This is one woman’s riveting story of strength, courage and promises kept. In 1943, the Japanese tear young Jae-hee and her sister from their peaceful family farm to be comfort women for the Imperial Army. Before they leave home, their mother gives them a magnificent antique comb with an ivory inlay of a two-headed dragon, saying it will protect them.
by Annabelle Kim, 2017
Gripping, suspenseful, and unflinching, Tiger Pelt is a story of rebirth from the rubble of a savage time and a ravaged place: Korea during the Japanese occupation followed by the Korean War. A farm boy embarks on a quest that propels him on an odyssey spanning the Korean peninsula and crossing the Pacific. In a parallel life, a beautiful young girl is kidnapped and forced to work as a comfort woman for the Japanese military. During a raging monsoon, the two souls will collide in a near-death encounter that will alter the course of their lives.
by Min Jin Lee, 2017
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 passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Japan.
Everything Belongs to Us
by Yoojin Grace Wuertz, 2017
Seoul, 1978. At South Korea’s top university, the nation’s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind. For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn’t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin’s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew.
The Kinship of Secrets
by Eugenia Kim, 2018
From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart. In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.
Note: parts of this novel take place in Washington DC.
If You Leave Me
by Crystal Hana Kim, 2018
An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love – the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that continues to haunt us today.
Star of the North
by D.B. John, 2018
Star of the North opens in 1998, when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a South Korean beach by North Korean operatives. Twelve years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her – including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime.
Note: parts of this novel take place in North Korea. It has some staggering reviews!
The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See, 2019
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that 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 life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.
Note: This one also has an incredible number of top ratings, I adore the work of Lisa See!
What do you think of these books set in Korea?
How many of these books set in Korea have you read? Have some great books set in Korea that I’ve missed? Are you planning a trip to South Korea soon? Have any travel tips for readers visiting? I’d love to hear about more about your travels and tips for books set in Korea in the comments below!
Looking for more reading ideas?
If you’re looking for more books set around Asia, see some of these popular posts:
- Books Set in India: Indian Novels
- Books Set in China and Hong Kong: Chinese Novels
- Books Set in Japan: Japanese Novels
- Books Set in Indonesia: Indonesian Novels