April 2022 Harriett Book Club
It was no doubt a pity that in the end Lizzie, the translator of Korean Teachers, couldn’t join us for our online book club because of technical difficulties on her side. I’m not gonna lie that I’m disappointed the book launch was cancelled because the book’s author Su-jin came down with the coronavirus, and now the translator couldn’t join us for book club.
I really want readers to hear directly from the author and translator as that would give them more context to the novel, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. That said, we still had a wonderful discussion! 😊
Our overall impression of Korean Teachers is how relatable the stories about the four female Korean protagonists are to us female readers: workplace competition (between women), tagging performance to self-worth, exploitation and oppression of female hourly workers, juggling work expectations and personal ambitions.
Su-jin’s style of writing stands out because of its brevity—she makes a point and then moves on to the next, which (I think—some people will disagree) is pretty uncommon among Korean writers who tend to write at a relatively more tedious length and risk being deemed as longwinded.
We each have a different favourite protagonist. Mine is Ga-eun, a multi-layered character that the novel introduces bit by bit—first, her popularity as the best lecturer; second, the price that comes with popularity; third, her underlying dissatisfaction with work because it’s unchallenging; fourth, the secret she harbours; fifth, the death of her father. It’s this layered approach that also exhibits Su-jin’s cleverness in storytelling.
On the whole, Korean Teachers has helped readers question and challenge our own prejudices and inform us about the darker side of the Korean wave and its attendant socio-economic problems. It has definitely provided a good starting point for us to reflect on and discuss these issues. (P.S. Check out the reviews on IG by other book reviewers on their thoughts about the book! Meanwhile, you can get a copy of Korean Teachers from our online bookstore!)
Join us in May as we discuss Spanish writer Claudia Pineiro’s Elena Knows (tr. Frances Riddle), which has been shorted for the 2022 International Booker Prize.
Everyone is welcome to join our book club. We meet online every last weekend of the month. For more updates, follow us on Instagram and Facebook!