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K-thrillers, genre fiction hallyu… Korean crime fiction outside Korea

Korean thrillers and psychological thrillers are drawing more and more attention outside of Korea.

種の起源: the Japanese version of 종의 기원 by JEONG You-jeong

Japanese author Miyuki MIYABE, who is a famous author of SF, detective and mystery novels, wrote an article for Yomiuri Shimbun called “The New Wave of Korean literature”. In this article, she wonders why so few Korean novels of crime fiction arrive in Japan. When it comes to cinema, South Korea is the country that gave to the world some of the greatest masterpieces of thrillers and crime fiction. Miyuki MIYABE mentions Memories of Murder by BONG Joon-ho, but we could cite so many other great works. In her article, Miyuki MIYABE said that when she asked why Korean genre fiction is not more developed in the literary scene, she was told that the Korean publishing world tends to favour literary fiction over genre fiction like mysteries or SF that are written for entertainment only.

あの子はもういない: Japanese version of 시스터 by LEE Du-on

Miyuki MIYABE says that recently, a wave of Korean genre fiction is rising and arriving in Japan. She mentions author JEONG You-jeong and her novel 종의 기원 (English title: The Good Son, Japanese title: 種の起源) and author LEE Du-on 이두온 whose novel 시스터 (Japanese title: あの子はもういない) is a best-seller in Japan. Both are suspenseful thrillers with family as a central theme.

The Japanese version of 시스터 has the catchy phrase “K-thriller” on its promotional wrapping band, and literary critic Akiyuki SENGAI said about it: “이 작품이야말로 한류 서스펜스의 진면목”.

The new wave of Korean thrillers is not only landing in Japan: Western readers are also discovering Korean authors, in particular, LEE Jung-myung, JEONG You-jeong and more recently KIM Un-su.

The Investigation: English title of 별을 스치는 바람 by LEE Jung-myung

LEE Jung-myung’s novel 별을 스치는 바람 (published in 2012 in Korea) has been translated and published in 10 countries and received a literary award in Italia. The English title is The Investigation. It tells the last year of poet YUN Dong-ju 윤동주 who died in the prison of Fukuoka in 1945. The Korean title of LEE Jung-myung’s novel is a reference to YUN Dong-ju’s most famous poem which ends by “오늘 밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다 ” (Tonight, again, the stars are brushed by the wind, translation by Kyungnyun K. Richards & Steffen F. Richards).

The Good Son: English title of 종의 기원 by JEONG You-jeong

JEONG You-jeong has also seduced western readers in 19 countries with 종의 기원 (The Good Son). The rights for her novel 7년의 밤 have already been sold in 13 countries.

More recently, KIM Un-su’s thriller 설계자들 (English title: The Plotters) has attracted a lot of positive critics.

The two last titles are advertised as “thrillers” outside Korea, but in Korean bookshops, you are more likely to find them in the section “Korean literature” than in the “detective, mystery, thrillers” section, which is filled with translated works.


“정유정·이두온…日 파고드는 ‘장르소설 한류'” by 은정진 기자 for 한국 경제

“해외에서 더 뜨거운 ‘K스릴러’ 열풍이 분다” by 이영경 기자 for 경향신문

韓国文芸界の新たな波 by 宮部みゆきfor 読売新聞


  1. Hello, Very interesting blog, thank you so much !
    Note that, in France, we are launching a new publishing house specialized in Korean Thrillers (and detective, Noir, and so…). The name of the company is Matin Calme and we shall begin with Kim Un-su, Seo Mi-ae, Do Jin-gi,…
    All the best,

    • inhae says

      Hello! Thank you for your comment, I am very glad to hear about your publishing house, and I wish you the best for your upcoming publications! I can’t wait to see authors like Seo Mi-ae or Do Jin-gi reaching an European audience!

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