Crime fiction in Korea

WORK IN PROGRESS – I’m trying my best to work on this blog, but I have many other activities so it’s not always easy to update it regularly!

First Korean detective novel known today

LEE Hae-jo 이해조 (1869-1927) wrote the first detective novel known today in 1908: 쌍옥적.

쌍옥적 was first serialised in 1908 in the magazine Jeguk shinmun (제국신문). It was published as an independant volume in 1911 under the title 정탐소설 쌍옥적.

LEE Hae-jo wrote 쌍옥적 during the last years of the Korean Empire, and his story features a 별순건, an inspector who in civil clothes to collect information. The 별순건 was a characteristic of the Korean Empire.

Under Japanese colonial rule

First Korean author of detective novels: KIM Nae-seong 김내성 (1909-1957)

KIM Nae-seong is the first Korean writer who specialised in detective novels.

KIM Nae-seong was born in 1909. He studied in Japan and started writing crime fiction while he was studying at Waseda University. His works were serialised in Japanese magazines.

KIM Nae-seong returned to Korea in 1936 and began his career as author of detective novels. He adapted the stories he wrote in Japan to Korea, with a Korean setting and Korean characters. He also translated and adapted short stories of Sherlock Holmes, changing the names and places to fit a Korean setting.

In his short story 가상범인, KIM Nae-seong introduced his detective YU Bul-ran, who became the first Korean fictional detective.

His major works include 마인, 인생화보 and 청춘극장.

Other authors who wrote detective novels

BANG In-geun 방인근 (1899-1975)

(Created the detective 장비호)

CHAE Man-shik 채만식 (1902-1950)

Like KIM Nae-seong, CHAE Man-shik, alias Baek-reung (백릉), studied at Waseda University. He left it to work as a journalist at Dong-a ilbo and started writing novels and made his debut in literature.

CHAE Man-shik is a prolific author who wrote all kinds of works, including detective novels. 염마 is considered to be the first modern detective novel.

BANG Jeong-hwan 방정환 (1899-1931)

BANG Jeong-hwan is well known for his combat for children’s right and the establishment of the Children’s Day. He wrote children literature and detective novels for children such as 칠칠단의 비밀.

He also participated in the March 1st Movement.

After the Liberation

Greatest author of Korean detective novels: KIM Seong-jong 김성종

KIM Seong-jong is by far considered to be the greatest author of detective novels from the 70s to the 90s.

In 1963, KIM Seong-jong studied international politics at Yonsei University, at a time where finding enough money to eat, get dressed and sleep was a much more worrying concern than studying.

In 1969, his short story 경찰관 was published in Joseon ilbo. Five years later, in 1974, he won a prize of 2,000,000 won with his detective novel 최후의 증인. Organised by Hanguk ilbo for the 20 years anniversary of the foundation, this literary prize saved KIM Seong-jong from poverty and allowed him to start his career as an author of detective novels.

His works include 최후의 증인, 여명의 눈동자, 제5열, and 국제 열차 살인사건.

He now lives in Busan with his family.

Other authors

Contemporary genre fiction

Literary Prize for Korean Crime Fiction: 한국추리문학상

Presented by the Korean Crime Authors Association (한국추리작가협회), the Korean Literary Prize for Crime Fiction was first established in 1985.

This is a list of the winners from 1985 to today:

YearAuthor’s name
Author’s name
Original Title
Meaning of the title
(not a translation)
1985HYEON Jae-hun현재훈절벽Precipice
1986KIM Seong-jong김성종비련의 화인
The cause of fatal love
1987LEE Sang-u이상우악녀, 두 번 살다
Femme fatale, lives twice
1988No Won “No One”노원
위험한 외출A Dangerous Leave
1989LEE Won-du 이원두 폭군의 아침The Tyrant’s Morning
1990not awarded
1991HAN Dae-hui한대희분노의 계절The Season of Anger
1992KANG Hyeong-won강형원서울 에펠탑The Eiffel Tower of Seoul
1993YU U-je유우제불새의 미로The Labyrinth of the Phoenix
1994LEE Su-guang이수광사자의 얼굴The Face of the Lion
1995LEE Gyeong-jae이경재일본을 재판한다Judge Japan
1997BAEK Hyu백휴사이버 킹Cyber King
1999KIM Yong-sang김용상살인자의 가면무두도회The Murderer’s Masquerade
2001not awarded?
2003not awarded?
2005JEONG Hyeong정형맨해튼의 이방인들Foreigners of Manhattan
2007not awarded
2009SEO Mi-ae서미애인형의 정원The Doll’s Garden
2011not awarded
2012KIM Jae-hui김재희경성 탐정 이상LEE Sang, Detective of Gyeongseong
2013CHOE Hyeok-gon최혁곤
B 파일 B-file
2014DO Jin-gi
JEONG Seok-hwa
유다의 별
춤 추는 집
The Star of Judas
The Dancing House
2015PARK Ha-ik박하익선암여고 탐정단The Detective Club of
Seonam high school for girls
2016information required
2017JEONG Ga-il정가일신데렐라 포장마차Cinderella’s Carriage
2018not awarded?

It is hard to find a complete list on the Web, and I was not able to find the winner for 2016. It also seems that the Prize was awarded every year until 1995, then once every two years until 2012, then every year…?