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Feminist books continue to flourish

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By Park Jin-hai

'Another Person' by Kang Hwa-gil
'Another Person' by Kang Hwa-gil
Since a hate crime committed against a woman at Gangnam Station last year, many women have broken their silence and have described the violence, threats and misogyny they have experienced in their daily lives.

The local literary circle also saw many young writers publish feminist books in the latter half of last year as if the subject "unemployed youth," that has provided inspirations to so many writers for many years, has been replaced by "misogyny."

With novelist Cho Nam-joo's popular novel "Kim Ji Young Born in 82" at the forefront, which has sold over 270,000 copies in 10 months since it was released in October 2016; "The Age of Gentle Violence," written by Jung Yi-hyun; and "Shoko's Smile," written by Choi Eun-young, and many other feminist books have hit the bookshelves.

While Cho's book ranks high on the bestselling book list, two more "young feminist" books _ "Another Person" by Kang Hwa-gil and "The School for Wives" by Park Min-jung _ have been recently released.

"Another Person," which won the 22nd Hankyoreh Literature Prize this year for the "detailed voices of young and rising feminists," talks about the issues of date crime and sexual assault, while "The School for Wives" in its seven short stories asks where the misogyny comes from.

Jang Eun-su, Editing Culture Lab CEO, says recent feminist novels tend to be more ideological and more blatantly pro-
'The School for Wives' by Park Min-jung
'The School for Wives' by Park Min-jung
feminism. "Previously, feminist novels looked into women's daily lives, their sense and sensibilities, the recent books tend to approach feminism more straight-forward, ideologically and blatantly," he said to a local media.

"Recent books reflect what is distinctive in this generation, while social messages have been expressed not so well," says literary critic Baek Ji-yeon.

In "Different Person," the protagonist Kim Jin-a sues her colleague and boyfriend for dating violence, but when the law fines him only 3 million, she posted stories of how she was abused on the internet and gained support and sympathy from others. All this has an abrupt turnaround, as one leaves a comment that she is a liar and the one to blame. From an innocent victim, Kim quickly is portrayed as a bully.

The author, born in 1986, said, "We are the generation that learned that both genders are equal from an early age. But facing the reality, that is not true. We have seen rising feminism for years, but in reality, an ordinary woman's life is not easily freed from the deep rooted patriarchal thinking in society."

"Thus, when the case of dating violence happens, a woman tends to regard it as a personal problem, blaming herself, instead of finding the reason from the social structure. Society makes her think that she might have invited the incident."

"The School for Wives" is the second novel for writer Park Min-jung, 32, who won the Munji Prize this year. The book, comprised of seven short stories the author wrote between 2014 and the spring of this year, taps on various hate crimes against women in her stories, ranging from extreme violence in the case of a murder to less explicit violence in the case of a hidden camera. In "Science of Happiness," she says cases of women being ignored, abused and murdered, is not limited to Korea, while "Bird Eyes View" tells of the connection between the birth of a young extremist and flourishing misogyny.

"I didn't think that I had to write on feminism. But young writers like me, in the process of creating our own literary world, happen to have experiences where we yield to a world that we don't agree with. For instance, while studying literature, we face classic stories where men raping women is expressed as a trial and error for a man's growth or as a metaphor for self reflection," she said in a recent interview with local media. "It is so important that whatever I write, it cannot be done without it (feminism). Contemporary young female writers recognize it, but describe it in a different language."

Park Jin-hai


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