KLWAVE features content to introduce a diverse range of Korean literature to overseas readers. This year, we will introduce the best-selling Korean literature every quarter.
KLWAVE’s first-quarter best sellers were selected based on the comprehensive consideration of the list of best-selling books provided by two Korean bookstore chains and the list of most borrowed books provided by the Korean Library Association from January to March 2023.
The trend of so-called “healing novels,” which has been gaining popularity for several years, continues to thrive this year. There were new releases by some leading Korean novelists, such as Kim Hoon, Kim Young-ha, Kim Yeonsu, and Choi Eunyoung, and novels that have been reevaluated by readers for various reasons.
One of the most prominent keywords for the best sellers in the first half of the year is “the books that made a comeback.” Some of them received little attention upon their release but have now gained renewed attention from readers for various reasons. For example, Lee Hyukjin’s romance novel Sarangui Ihae (Understanding Love), published in 2019, has recently received attention due to the popularity of its drama adaptation with the same title. Choi Jin Young’s Guui Jeungmyeong (Gu’s Proof), which was published in 2015 and initially sold only about 2,000 copies a year, is experiencing a resurgence since last year by word of mouth, selling 50,000 copies in the first quarter of this year and a total of 150,000 copies to date.
Following last year, the best seller list features a balanced representation of “healing novels” such as Dalleoguteu Kkum Baekhwajeom (DollarGut Dream Department Store), Bulpyeonhan Pyeonuijeom (The Inconvenient Convenience Store), Chaekdeului Bueok (The Kitchen of Books), and Merigoldeu Maeum Setakso (Marygold Mind Laundry), which provide warm comfort with their background setting in familiar spaces we encounter every day. In particular, Bulpyeonhan Pyeonuijeom (The Inconvenient Convenience Store) not only topped the list in the first half of the year, as it did the previous year, but its sequel Bulpyeonhan Pyeonuijeom 2 (The Inconvenient Convenience Store 2) also ranked third, further contributing to the popularity of “healing novels.”
The latest novels by renowned authors, who play a significant role in Korean literature, have also received love from readers. Kim Hoon’s Haeolbin (Harbin), Kim Young-ha’s JakbyeolInsa (Farewell Greetings), and Kim Yeonsu’s Itorok Pyeongbeomhan Mirae (A Future as Ordinary as This) have been acknowledged by readers for their remarkable literary qualities. Balguen Bam (Bright Night), the first full-length novel by Chio Eunyoung, who enjoys overwhelming support from female readers and is establishing herself as a “young master,” is steadily gaining popularity. Jeong Ji A’s Abeojiui Haebangilji (Father's Liberation) has captivated not only middle-aged readers but also young readers as her witty sense of humor skillfully handles the tragic subject matter of Korean modern history through the story of a communist partisan.
Written by Han So Bum
A journalist of Hankook Ilbo and the writer of book review articles for the Korean literature newsletter “Munhak.”
Translated by J Noh
J Noh is a specialized translator in the fields of art, literature, and subculture. Her translation expertise encompasses critical writings, subtitles, and catalogs for esteemed institutions such as the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Asia Culture Center, and Gwangju Biennale. Additionally, she has contributed to the translation of various PC games.
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