48 pages 1 hour read

Cho Nam-Joo, Transl. Jamie Chang

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Character Analysis

Kim Jiyoung

Kim Jiyoung is the protagonist of the novel. The narrative relates her life story from birth to early motherhood. At each phase, Jiyoung is confronted by culturally sanctioned gender inequities. Sexual harassment is a common denominator across her school and career experiences. She is frustrated by not only the ubiquity of the harassment, but also by the way it is euphemized and dismissed (or, worse, blamed on women). She knows this treatment is wrong and repeatedly thinks of what she wants to say in response to it. But she is pressured and coerced into silence. Demeaning behavior toward women is so widespread that it’s taken for granted. But the impact on Jiyoung’s well-being and career shows that harassment is a major driver of gender inequality.

Jiyoung is influenced and shaped by her relationships with women. These women are so essential to her character that she becomes them, speaking with their voices and from the depth of their life experiences. Cho Nam-Joo is careful to avoid defining Jiyoung’s voices in reductive pathological terms. Whether she is suffering from a mental or mood disorder, is possessed, or is perfectly healthy is left to the reader to interpret.

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