Elizabeth Kim

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Elizabeth Kim is the pen name of an American journalist who authored the book Ten Thousand Sorrows, which is described as a memoir.

Early life[edit]

Kim was born in South Korea to a Korean mother and an American father. She was conceived most likely after the Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended the fighting in the Korean War.[1] According to Kim's memories, her father abandoned her mother, who was forced to return to her hometown alone and pregnant to seek assistance from her family. After Kim's birth, she lived with her mother in a hut at the edge of town, and worked in the rice fields. When Kim was a child, as she remembers it, her mother was killed by her grandfather and uncle in what she would later describe as an "honor killing".[2][3] Kim herself was left at a Seoul orphanage, with no record of her original name or her family.[4] Eventually, she was adopted by a minister and his wife and given the name Elizabeth.

Ten Thousand Sorrows[edit]

Writing and reactions[edit]

Kim was working as a journalist at the Marin Independent Journal and living in San Rafael, California, when literary agent Patti Breitman approached her about the possibility of writing a memoir. Kim was initially reluctant, but Breitman slowly convinced her of the idea; Breitman herself says that publishers were quite enthusiastic about the idea, and one even replied to her proposal within a day, simply asking her to "name a price". In the end, Kim received an advance of hundreds of thousands of dollars for her book; when it was published in May 2000, Kim quit her job at the Marin Independent Journal (despite her recent promotion to city editor) to tour in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[5]

Andrea Behr, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, praised Kim's writing, comparing her book to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, and stating that "she has the gift of telling her story with such clear-sighted, humble honesty, and such compassion, that it's just as fascinating and compulsively readable as it is devastating".[6] It was also reviewed favorably in O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine.[citation needed]

Others were less positive. Salon reviewer Brigitte Frase described Kim's book as "brutal", "haunting and disturbing", and "an act of revenge", ending her review by stating that "I have read it so that you won't have to".[2] Some critics suspected Kim's book of being fictional rather than autobiographical. It was particularly controversial in the Korean American community, some of whose members accused Kim of "exploiting the issue of biraciality" and "trying to take advantage of the [then] current interest in autobiographies, particularly those that involved violence against women".[7] However, other Korean Americans rose to defend the book, and indeed B. R. Myers, who lambasted what he described as the book's "ludicrous inaccuracies" about Korean culture, found that people often dismissed his assessment of Kim's book because he was not Korean and thus presumed to have no authority to speak about Korean culture.[8]


  • Koji Nnamdi, WAMU[9]
  • Seiwoong Oh, Western American Literature[10]
  • Susan Soon-Keum Cox, Adoption Quarterly[11]
  • Tracy Dianne Wood, Ph.D. dissertation, U.C. Riverside[12]

Editions and translations[edit]

Ten Thousand Sorrows was published in the following editions:

  • Elizabeth Kim (2000), Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan, New York: Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-49633-9, OCLC 42753514
  • Audiobook (read by the author): Elizabeth Kim (2000), Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan, New York: BDD Audio, ISBN 978-0-553-50258-9, OCLC 44062484
  • United Kingdom edition: Elizabeth Kim (2002), Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan, London: Bantam Books, ISBN 978-0-553-81264-0, OCLC 51964925

It was translated into eleven languages. The below list gives unofficial translations of the foreign-language titles where the original title was not preserved.

Further editions were published in two of those languages:

  • German paperback: Elizabeth Kim; Maria Mill (translator) (2004), Ungeliebtes Kind: eine koreanische Kriegswaise kämpft um ihr Leben [Unloved Child: A Korean War orphan struggles for her life], München: Goldmann, ISBN 978-3-442-15232-2, OCLC 76488912
  • Hungarian paperback: Elizabeth Kim; Nagy Imre (2006), Tízezer könnycsepp: egy távol-keleti nő emlékiratai, Budapest: Trivium, ISBN 978-963-9367-91-3, OCLC 441102719


  1. ^ Italie, Hillel (November 12, 2000), "Fact or fiction? The downfall of some memoirs are the flaws in the memories", Chicago Tribune, retrieved September 29, 2011
  2. ^ a b Frase, Brigitte (May 17, 2000), "'Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan' by Elizabeth Kim: An immigrant's brutal and disturbing memoir of abuse at the hands of fundamentalist parents and a sadistic husband", Salon, archived from the original on January 30, 2011, retrieved September 28, 2011
  3. ^ Lee, Margaret Juhae (December 25, 2000), "Korea's Fallout", The Nation, OCLC 203159788, retrieved September 26, 2011
  4. ^ Author Elizabeth Kim on being a Korean War Orphan, CNN, June 12, 2000, retrieved September 29, 2011
  5. ^ Marech, Rona (October 6, 2000), "Escaping Her Past: San Rafael author Elizabeth Kim, a Korean War orphan raised by fundamentalist parents in California, tells of her painful upbringing in a haunting memoir", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved September 29, 2011
  6. ^ Behr, Andrea (May 7, 2000), "A Korean War Orphan Lives to Tell Her Story: A young girl survives a hellish situation in her native land, only to face more horrors in America", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved September 29, 2011
  7. ^ Davis, Rocío G. (2007), Begin here: reading Asian North American autobiographies of childhood, University of Hawaii Press, p. 197, ISBN 978-0-8248-3092-2
  8. ^ Kim, Sun-jung (May 29, 2005), "The Remarkable B.R. Myers Revealed", JoongAng Ilbo, retrieved September 29, 2011
  9. ^ Koji Nnamdi (2000), Elizabeth Kim: "Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan", Washington, D.C.: WAMU, OCLC 426221805
  10. ^ Seiwoong Oh (2001), "Book Reviews — Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan", Western American Literature, 36 (2), ISSN 0043-3462, OCLC 94147883
  11. ^ Susan Soon-Keum Cox (2001), "Ten Thousand Sorrows, by Elizabeth Kim", Adoption Quarterly, 4 (3): 87–93, doi:10.1300/J145v04n03_06, ISSN 1092-6755, OCLC 207266672
  12. ^ Tracy Dianne Wood (2008), "Chapter 2", Korean American literature: literary orphans and the legacy of Han, Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Riverside, ISBN 978-0-549-52376-5, OCLC 744022321