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After K-pop and K-drama, a new wave of South Korean literature arrives in Brazil

South Korean culture has been gaining more and more space in the world. The phenomenon of K-pop in music was soon followed by the popularization of K-dramas — South Korean audiovisual productions that are very similar to our soap operas — and several other products from the country, including books.

In recent years, South Korean literature has achieved some bestsellers in Brazil. And much of this popularization may have started due to the most famous K-pop group in the world: BTS.

In a reality show that followed the five members of the group during a trip, RM and Suga appeared reading the book “Almonds”, by Won-pyung Sohn. After that, the book became a bestseller in South Korea and was successfully marketed in several other countries as a “recommendation from BTS members”.

The Brazilian edition of “Queria Morrer, Mas no Céu Não Tem Tteokbokki”, by Baek Sehee, has on the cover the phrase “book recommended by Namjoon from BTS”. The book also saw its sales numbers grow after RM — whose real name is Kim Namjoon — appeared reading it on one of the reality shows that followed the group.

There are even book clubs dedicated to reading recommendations from RM and other group members.

This new wave of Korean literature that has arrived in Brazil is almost entirely composed of female authors, who tell sensitive stories about how we relate to each other and to the world.

A CNN Below is a list of some South Korean books for those who want to learn more about or delve deeper into the country's literature:

“Almonds” by Won-pyung Sohn (Rocco)

“Almonds” was a phenomenon of Korean literature in Brazil in 2023, and part of its success is probably linked to its reputation as a “book recommended by BTS”.

In it, we follow Yunjae, who was born with a neurological condition called alexithymia, which makes him unable to identify and express his feelings, such as fear, sadness, desire or anger. The two almond-shaped structures in his brain that cause this condition meant the boy grew up without friends, but protected by his mother and grandmother.

On his 16th birthday, however, a tragedy leaves Yunjae alone. In addition to dealing with the loss, he needs to open up to new people and get out of his comfort zone to make friends.

“The Vegetarian”, by Han Kang (However)

Han Kang's book released in 2018 was, for many Brazilians, the first contact with Korean literature.

Yeonghye decides to stop eating, preparing and serving meat. The decision was motivated by the frequent nightmares that torment the woman, which almost always involve blood and raw meat.

The choice to exclude meat from her life may be the result of a disturbance caused by dreams, but it takes on an air of rebellion, as Yeonghye was taught from an early age that it is her responsibility to cook and feed her husband and family.

“The Inconvenient Convenience Store”, by Kim Ho-yeon (Bertrand Brasil)

A retired history teacher, Mrs. Yeom owns a convenience store. One day, she realizes that she lost her bag at the station, but soon receives a call from young Dok-go, who had found her belongings.

The two build a relationship and Dok-go starts going to the convenience store every day, until he is hired to work there after saving the store from a robbery. Everyone seems captivated by the young man, except Yeom's son, who has plans to sell the store and decides to hire a detective to find out more about Dok-go's mysterious past.

“Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookstore” by Hwang Bo-Reum (Intrinsic)

Unmotivated and tired of her life, Yeongju decides to make her old dream of opening a bookstore a reality. However, loving books is not enough to ensure the success of a new business, and she will have to learn how to run the place.

When Hyunam-dong bookstore becomes a place where customers feel comfortable sharing their stories, hopes, and emotions, Yeongju realizes he is finally where he belongs.

“I Wanted to Die, But There’s No Tteokbokki in Heaven”, by Baek Sehee (Universe of Books)

With the “book recommended by BTS’s Namjoon” stamp stamped on the cover, Baek Sehee’s book is almost autobiographical. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the author seeks in therapy a solution to the feelings that have haunted her since she was a child.

She shares with the reader pages from her childhood diary, conversations with her psychiatrist, and her love for tteokbokki, a hot and spicy rice cake, as she goes through the process of trying to better understand herself.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee (Intrinsic)

In the early 1900s, Korean teenager Sunja finds herself alone and pregnant by a married man, and so decides to accept a marriage proposal from a kind but very sick man who is heading to Japan.

The name of the book comes from pachinko parlors – a slot machine game present throughout Japan –, the easiest place for Korean immigrants to find a job in the country.

The story portrays the hope and persistence of three generations of Korean immigrants in Japan, a discriminated and excluded population.

Source: CNN Brasil

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