Therapist Haesoo Lim used to appear on television to provide her professional opinion on matters in the news. But after speaking about a famous male actor, her career took a nosedive when the actor committed suicide. Haesoo not only lost her job, but her marriage also fell apart. Kim Hye-jin’s new novel Counsel Culture, translated by Jamie Chang, may be a small, contemplative book, but it packs a big punch with vibrant characters, both human and feline. 

Janet Poole, a professor at the University of Toronto, in Patterns of the Heart and Other Stories has translated into English a collection of works by Choe Myong-ik, a writer whom she calls in her introductory essay an “exquisite architect of the short story form”. Following her essay, Poole presents nine stories, five from the colonial era (published from 1936 to 1941) and four in the postwar period (published from 1946 to 1952). Apart from “Walking in the Rain”, which she published in a bilingual edition in 2015, the stories in this book are available in English for the first time.

Film and television that satirize South Korea’s class division has garnered considerable audience and critical attention in recent years, notably the award-winning Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) and the record-breaking Squid Game (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021). Less well known internationally, however, is literary fiction that takes aim at South Korea’s social hierarchy. Im Seong-sun’s The Consultant, first published in Korean in 2010 and now available in English translation, takes full advantage of the medium of the novel to create an ambiguous, mysterious satire that can be grimly satirical and coldly terrifying.

When Lee Yeongju burns out at work and leaves her husband, she finds solace in pursuing her childhood dream of opening a bookshop. Her goal is to bring joy to other readers in Seoul and to get back into reading, a pastime she enjoyed back in middle school before she got caught up in the competitiveness of high school, university, and the corporate world. Yeongju and her new friends learn to slow down, enjoy life outside the rat race, and allow themselves not to conform to societal expectations.

A sprawling, multigenerational epic, Hwang Sok-yong’s Mater 2-10 tells the story of a working-class Korean family and details their struggles against the tides of the 20th century, from the Japanese colonial era through the division of the Peninsula to South Korea’s economic boom. Their agitation for workers’ rights spans the generations, as does the unique ability of the family’s women to speak and affect events from beyond the grave, both of which define the family and mark the epochs of the story.