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Hwang Hyunjin (writer)

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Hwang Hyunjin (1979~) is a South Korean writer. Her first novel, Jugeulmankeum apejin ana (죽을 만큼 아프진 않아 Not so Painful I'd Die) was published in 2011. She has received praise for her quietly witty style and for her vivid depiction of characters. As well as Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana, Hwang is known for her novel Doobeon saneun saramdeul (두 번 사는 사람들 People Who Do Live Twice, 2017).


Hwang Hyunjin was born in 1979 in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.[1] After graduating with a degree in Creative Writing from Keimyung University in Daegu, Hwang went onto study Creative Writing at Myongji University Graduate School. While at graduate school[2], she received the 16th Munhakdongne Writer Award in 2011 for her novel Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana. Her second novel Doobeon saneun saramdeul was released in 2017. From July 2017 to August 2018, Hwang was a regular contributor to the weekly current affairs magazine Hankyoreh21. Her column was titled “Hwang Hyunjin’s People-Reading.”[3] A short story, Busan ihubuteo (부산 이후부터 Since Busan), was published as an illustrated chapbook in 2018.


Hwang Hyunjin's debut novel, Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana, is a coming-of-age story of a nineteen-year-old protagonist named Tae Manseng. A sudden decision by his parents to start a new life in ‘America’ forces Tae to make his own way in the world. Leaving the only home he has ever known (referred to by its address of ‘Yongsangu Hangangro 101-9’) for a small rooftop studio, Tae begins to learn to fend for himself. The story follows Tae and his friends – Taehwa who is uncertain of their sexual identity, Ohseon his first love, and Yujin, a girl who professes to love him – as they navigate the liminal space between childhood and adulthood. Hwang observes the characters’ naïvete and their pure outlook on life.[4] Her descriptions of the spaces they inhabit are authentic and affectionate, her characters are brimming with energy[5], and her prose captures the sassy, unapologetic honesty of teenagers.[6]

Hwang's second novel Doobeon saneun saramdeul (2017) is broken down into chapters that each begin with a significant historical moment in Korean contemporary history. But the stories that follow focus on the quotidian aspects of a small group of regular people who happen to be living through that particular period. The opening chapter begins with the assassination of former President Park Chung-hee on October 26, 1979. On that same day, another Park Chung-hee, in this case a young woman born in 1960, is pronounced to be brain dead after giving birth to a daughter. The baby, Jogu (or Gugu), is raised by her father Jo Geumsong, who makes ends meet by starting a rooming house. The boarders at the rooming house are Gram Persimmon, an elderly woman who eats nothing but ripe persimmons three times a day, Giwook, who works at a factory that manufactures color televisions, Giwook's girlfriend Sunjom, Yongtae the student activist, and the seemingly well-off but somewhat suspicious Mansu.[7] Hwang sketches the lives of these characters as they move through history with their own share of stories, burdens, and sadness, poignantly observing that “when the world is in pain our lives are also in pain.”[8] But then again, the secret to life is that “we have to die once before we can start a new life.”[9]

List of Works[edit]

1) Novels

《죽을 만큼 아프진 않아》, 문학동네, 2011 / Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana (Not so Painful I'd Die), Munhakdongne, 2011

《두 번 사는 사람들》, 문학동네, 2017 /  Doobeon saneun saramdeul (People Who Do Live Twice), Munhakdongne, 2017

2) Short Stories

《달의 의지》(중편), 은행나무, 2015 / Darui uiji (The Will of the Moon), a novella, Eunhaengnamu, 2015

《부산 이후부터》(일러스트 북), 미메시스, 2018 / Busan ihubuteo (Since Busan), an illustrated chapbook, Mimesis, 2018

3) Themed Short Story Collections

김엄지 외, 《2013 젊은 소설》, 문학나무, 2013 (수록작〈츠츠츠로 가는 뒷문〉) / “Tsutsutsu-ro ganeun duitmun (A Backdoor to Tsu-tsu-tsu),” in Kim Um-Ji et al., 2013 Jurmun Soseol (Young Stories 2013), Munhaknamu, 2013

황현진 외, 《키스와 바나나》, 한겨레출판사, 2014 (수록작 〈키스와 바나나〉) / “Kiseuwa banana (Keith and Banana),” in Hwang Hyunjin et al., Kiseuwa banana, Hankyoreh, 2014

박솔뫼 외, 《첨벙 – 불가사의하면서도 기묘한 13 가지 중독 이야기》,  한겨레출판사, 2014 (수록작〈보다 그럼직한 자세〉) / “Boda gureomjikhan jase (A Likelier Pose),” in Bak Solmay et al., Chumbung – Bulgasauihamyunseodo gimyohan 13gaji jungdok iyagi (Splash – Thirteen Strange and Mysterious Stories of Obsession), Hankyoreh, 2014

최진영 외, 《내가 태어나서 가장 먼저 배운 말》, 한겨레출판사, 2015 (수록작〈내가 태어나서 가장 먼저 배운 말〉) / “Nega teonaseo gajang monjeo baeun mal (The First Word I ever Learned),” in Choi Jin-young et al., Nega teonaseo gajang monjeo baeun mal, Hankyoreh, 2015

안보윤 외, 《호텔 프린스》, 은행나무, 2017 ( 수록작〈우산도 빌려주나요〉) / “Usando bilryojunayo (And Do You also Rent out Umbrellas?),” in Ahn Bo-yoon et al., Hotel prinsu (Hotel Prince), Eunhaengnamu, 2017

구병모 외, 《무민은 채식주의자》, 걷는사람, 2018 (수록작 〈언니〉) / “Unni (Sister),” in Gu Byeong-mo et al., Moomineun Chaesikjuuija (Moomin Is a Vegetarian), Gutneun saram, 2018

4) Anthologies

어라운드 편집부,  《나는 지금 그곳에 있다》, 어라운드, 2017 (수록작 〈두 개의 점〉) / “Dwogeyi jum (Two Points),” in Nanun jigum gugosse itta (I'm There Now), ed. Around editorial team, Around, 2017

함민복, 김민정 엮음,  《문재인 스토리》, 모악, 2017 / Ham Min Bok & Kim Min-jeong ed., Moon Jae-in Story, Moak, 2017

주하림 외, 《파문》, 기린과숲, 2014 (수록작 〈여섯 살〉) / “Yeosotsal (Age Six),” in Ju Harim et al., Pamun (Repercussions), Giringwa sup, 2014


16th Munhakdongne Writer Award for Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana (2011)[10]


  1. Hwang Hyunjin, “뻥장군의 변신타임 (Morphing Time for General Tall-tale)”, Quarterly Munhakdongne Volume 73, 2012 Winter Issue.
  2. Kang Jonghoon, “제 16회 문학동네 작가상에 황현진 씨”, Yonhap News, May 24, 2011.
  3. “21 뉴스 & 알림”, Hankyoreh21, 26 June, 2017.
  4. Han Kang, Judge’s statement for Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana, Munhakdongne, 2011, p.269.
  5. Ryoo Bo Sun, Judge’s statement for Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana, Munhakdongne, 2011, p.263.
  6. Hwang Jongyeon, Judge’s statement for Jugeulmankeum apeujin ana, Munhakdongne, 2011, p.270.
  7. Publisher’s introduction for Doobeon saneun saramdeul, Munhakdongne, 2017.
  8. Hwang Hyunjin, Author’s Note, Doobeon saneun saramdeul, Munhakdongne, 2017, pp.346-347.
  9. Book synopsis, Doobeon saneun saramdeul, Munhakdongne, 2017.
  10. Korean Wikipedia entry on Munhakdongne and the Munhakdongne Literature Award.

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