Discover the 10 best Korean books to read in 2023.

These are my 10 must-read Korean Books before traveling to South Korea. I narrowed my selection down to award winners and bestsellers.

Some of my favorites include Human Acts, Nothing to Envy, and Pachinko.

Human Acts is a must-read for anyone interested in South Korea. It explains a time, not too long ago when the Korean government brutally crushed protests in the city of Gwangju. This deadly event would later be termed the Gwangju uprising. What should have been a peaceful protest ended up being one of Korea’s deadliest.

Another book on the list is by the award-winning journalist Barbara Demrick. The book is called Nothing to Envy and it is a fascinating, yet deeply moving insight into the ordinary lives in North Korea. Demrick explores what it means to live in a brutal dictatorship. A dictatorship that has been so repressive that TV and Radio dials are meticulously fixed to the government channel and people have been forced to sell themselves, and everything that belongs to them just to eat another meal. This book will leave a tear in your eye and make you thankful for the life you have.


1. The Vegetarian, By Han Kang

Goodreads review: 3.60


2. A River In Darkness, One Man’s Escape From North Korea, By Masail Ishikawa

Good Reads Review: 4.25



3. Crying In H Mart By, Michelle Zauner

Good Read Review 4.33


4. Cursed Bunny By, Bora Chung

Good Read Review: 4.10


5. Human Acts By, Han Kang

Good Read Review score 4.21


6. Escape From Camp 14 By, Blaine Harden

Good Read Review 3.98


7. Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives In North Korea By, Barbra Demick

Good Read Review 4.43


8. Pachinko By, Min Jin Lee

Good Read Review 4.30


9. The Island Of Sea Women By, Lisa See

Good Read Review 4.28


10. Kim Jiyoung Born 1982, By Cho Nam-Joo

Translated by Jamie Chang

Good Read Review 4.2


If you travel to Korea, make sure you buy a Kindle. You can find English books in bookstores like Kybo, but I have found that most of the books are overpriced; sometimes you can’t even find the book you want.

Korean Expat

My preference is the Kindle paperwhite. But any Kindle does the job, and then you will have access to the thousands of books on the Amazon Kindle store.

Amazon has recently released the new generation of Kindle paperwhites. I managed to snag one while in Korea on Coupang.

How is it you ask? Well I can say it’s my favorite Kindle so far!

The 6.8-inch display and the adjustable warm light have made a huge difference to my reading experience.

Where to buy a kindle in Korea?

I purchased my Kindle on Coupang. You can also buy Kindles on G-market and Amazon.

Final word

Thanks for reading my 10 best Korean books to read before coming to Korea. If you can think of any more that we should add to the list please write in the comment section below.

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