Han Kang

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Han Kang
Han Kang at SIBF 2014
Born (1970-11-27) November 27, 1970 (age 46)
Gwangju, South Korea
Occupation Writer
Language Korean
Nationality South Korean
Alma mater Yonsei University
Genre Fiction
Notable works The Vegetarian
Notable awards Man Booker International Prize
Yi Sang Literary Award
Korean name
Hangul 한강
Revised Romanization Han Gang
McCune–Reischauer Han Kang

Han Kang (Hangul한강; born November 27, 1970) is a South Korean writer.[1] She won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016 for The Vegetarian, a novel which deals with a woman’s decision to stop eating meat and its devastating consequences.[2] The novel is also one of the first of her books to be translated into English.


Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won.[3] She was born in Gwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (of which she speaks affectionately in her novel Greek Lessons) in Seoul. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University.[4] Her brother Han Dong Rim is also a writer. She began her writing career when one of her poems was featured in the winter issue of the quarterly Literature and Society. She made her official literary debut in the following year when her short story "The Scarlet Anchor" was the winning entry in the daily Seoul Shinmun spring literary contest. Since then, she has gone on to win the Yi Sang Literary Prize (2005), Today's Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. As of summer 2013, Han teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts while writing stories and novels and is currently working on her sixth novel.[4]


Han's debut work, A Convict's Love, was published in 1995 and attracted attention because it was precisely and tightly narrated.[5] Han wrote The Vegetarian, and its sister-work, Mongolian Mark by hand, as overuse of the computer keyboard had damaged her wrist.[6] It has been reported that in her college years Kang became obsessed with a line of poetry from Yi Sang: "I believe that humans should be plants."[3] and that Kang interpreted this to be a defensive stance against the violence of the colonial period and took this as an inspiration to write her most successful work, The Vegetarian. The Vegetarian was Kang's first novel translated into English, though Kang had already attracted worldwide attention by the time Deborah Smith translated the novel.[7] The translated work won the Man Booker International Prize 2016 for them both. She is the first Korean to be nominated for the award. The work was also chosen as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2016" from NYTimes Book Review.[8]

Han's literary career began when she published five poems including “Winter in Seoul,” in the winter issue of Literature and Society in 1993. Her career in fiction began the following year when her work "Red Anchor" won the Seoul Shinmun Spring Literary Contest. Her first collection, Love of Yeosu, was published in 1995. In 1998, Han participated in a program at the University of Iowa International Writing Program. Her works published in Korea include Fruits of My Woman (2000); novels including The Black Deer (1998), Your Cold Hand (2002), The Vegetarian (2007), Breath Fighting (2010), and Greek Lessons (2011).

Han is also a musician and interested in art, and her work often reflects this.[4] "Your Cold Hand (2002)" revolves around the story of a sculptor and his model. When she published an essay book "Quietly sung songs (2007)", she released a CD with ten songs that she composed, wrote lyrics and record.[9] At first she was not intending to sing, but Han Jung Rim, a musician and music director, insisted Han should record the songs herself.[10]

Han won the 25th Korean Novel Award with her novella, “Baby Buddha” in 1999, the 2000 Today’s Young Artist Award, the 2005 Yi-Sang Literary Award with Mongolian Mark, and the 2010 Dong-ni Literary Award with Breath Fighting. Baby Buddha and The Vegetarian have been made into films. The Vegetarian was turned into a movie that was one of only 14 selections (out of 1,022 submissions) for inclusion in the World Narrative Competition of the prestigious North American Film Fest. The film was also a critical success at the Pusan International Film Festival.[11]

Mongolian Mark won the Yi Sang Literary Award. The rest of the series (The Vegetarian and Fire Tree) were delayed by contractual problems.[3] Han was the youngest to receive Yi Sang Literary Award until 2013 when Kim Aeran received it at the age of 32. Her Human Acts was released in January 2016.[12]


  • Hankook Ilbo Excellent Writer's Award (1995)
  • Korean Fiction Award (1999)
  • Ministry of Culture and Tourism Today's Young Artist Award - Literature Section (2000)
  • Yi Sang Literary Award Grand Prize (2005)
  • Dong-ni Literary Award (2010)
  • Manhae Literary Award (2014)
  • Hwang Sun-won Literary Award (2015)
  • Man Booker International Prize (2016)

Works in translation[edit]



  • NGƯỜI ĂN CHAY (채식주의자)
  • La Vegetariana (채식주의자)
  • Wegetarianka (채식주의자)
  • 素食主义者 (채식주의자)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "한강 " biographical PDF available at: http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do#
  2. ^ Alter, Alexandra (17 May 2016), Han Kang Wins Man Booker International Prize for Fiction With ‘The Vegetarian’, The New York Times, retrieved 17 May 2016 
  3. ^ a b c Humans As Plants
  4. ^ a b c Sunday meeting with Han Kang (한강) author of The Vegetarian (채식주의자), Korean Modern Literature in Translation, 11 June 2013, http://www.ktlit.com/korean-literature/sunday-meeting-with-han-kang-%ED%95%9C%EA%B0%95-author-of-vegetarian-%EC%B1%84%EC%8B%9D%EC%A3%BC%EC%9D%98%EC%9E%90
  5. ^ Korean Writers: The Novelists, Minumsa Publishing p. 78
  6. ^ Montgomery, Charles (15 November 2015). "Review of Han Kang's (한강) "The Vegetarian"". www.ktlit.com. KTLit. Retrieved 7 April 2016. Kang revealed in an interview at the Seoul ABC book club (7 November 7 2015) that she wrote this work in longhand, because too much keyboarding had injured her wrist. 
  7. ^ Khakpour, Porochista (2 February 2016). "The Vegetarian, by Han Kang". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  8. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/books/review/best-books.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=image&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
  9. ^ "가만가만부르는노래". 
  10. ^ "[한강] 가만가만, 꿈꾸듯 노래한 한강". 
  11. ^ "Vegetarian" to Compete at Sundance 2010
  12. ^ McAloon, Jonathan (5 January 2016). "Human Acts by Han Kang, review: 'an emotional triumph'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 

External links[edit]