The book Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was published in 2016 and received enthusiastic responses. In Korea, more than 1.3 million copies were sold as of the second half of 2019, and overseas, copyrights were sold to 17 countries, including China, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. In particular, it was ranked as a bestseller after its publication in Japan, Taiwan, and China, and was also selected as one of "The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020" by the U.S. magazine Time. The magazine stated: "The novel, which became a cultural sensation when it was published in 2016 in Korea, talks about a typical Korean woman who is a young wife and also a mother in a language that is not emotionally biased like a case study of history. Her predicament reveals the impact of a sexist society."
The novel is about a woman named "Kim Jiyoung." It calmly describes the story of her life from her childhood to being a mother. As most Korean women in the '70s and '80s did, Jiyoung's mother made money for her younger brothers by working in a textile factory after graduating from elementary school. With the money, her brothers were able to become a doctor, a police officer, and a teacher. Her mother lived with her parents-in-law by doing part-time jobs. When two daughters were born, they had several abortions to try to have a son, and finally, Jiyoung's younger brother was born. Since his birth, her sister and Jiyoung had been discriminated against by their grandmother who favored their younger brother.
Later, after succeeding in finding a job, she gets married. She is often questioned by relatives about why she does not have children or when she is going to have a child. Because of this, she sometimes fights with her husband, but fortunately, she later gives birth to a child. However, Jiyoung, who loves and cherishes her job and her company, faces a problem. Everyone thinks it is natural for Jiyoung to quit her job.
In the meantime, she repeats her daily routine of washing, feeding, and putting her child to sleep. Now, Jiyoung begins to express her feelings as if possessed by spirits. One day Jiyoung, who has been getting sicker, visits a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, who hears this story sympathetically, decides to hire a single nurse when he sees a nurse in his hospital quit because of pregnancy. The novel ends here.
The book has caused much controversy over feminism. However, aside from the idea of feminism, it may have been simply a story about ordinary women around us and their experiences. This is also structurally evident. The ending is placed at the beginning to make the readers wonder and stimulate their interest as to why Kim Jiyoung is suffering enough to visit the psychiatrist. The novel naturally narrates her story from her childhood to motherhood. It follows the trajectory of her life similar to the one that most people draw in their lives. Therefore, it is easier to elicit our feelings and empathy. The cynical setting shown at the end is also another structural feature. The psychiatrist who is supposed to help his patients neither sympathizes with nor understands the patient. The novel conveys a message that rather than simply giving a message of hope, we should provide more realistic and active help to those who are fighting this cynical view in our society.