A World of Wonder: The Best Korean Novels for Young Adults

Korean literature has gained significant recognition globally in recent years, captivating readers with its rich storytelling and unique cultural perspectives. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best Korean novels specifically tailored for young adult readers. From tales of friendship and romance to gripping adventures and thought-provoking narratives, these novels offer a diverse range of experiences that resonate with young audiences worldwide.

The Rise of Korean Literature

In the past decade, Korean literature has experienced a renaissance, fueled in part by the success of Korean dramas and K-pop music. As international audiences develop a fascination with Korean culture, they are increasingly turning to Korean literature to gain deeper insights into the country’s history, society, and values.

One of the defining features of Korean novels is their ability to seamlessly blend traditional themes with modern storytelling techniques. Whether set in contemporary Seoul or historical Korea, these novels often explore universal themes such as love, identity, and resilience, making them accessible to readers from diverse backgrounds.

The Best Korean Novels for Young Adults

1. “Please Look After Mom” by Kyung-Sook Shin

“Please Look After Mom” is a poignant novel that explores the complexities of family bonds and the sacrifices mothers make for their children. When an elderly woman goes missing in Seoul, her family embarks on a journey to search for her, uncovering long-buried secrets and regrets along the way. Through alternating perspectives, the novel delves into the interconnected lives of family members, highlighting the importance of love and forgiveness.

2. “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

“The Vegetarian” is a haunting and surreal novel that follows the story of Yeong-hye, a woman who decides to stop eating meat after a series of disturbing dreams. As her decision triggers unexpected consequences, including conflicts with her family and society’s expectations, Yeong-hye’s journey becomes a powerful allegory for the repression of individuality in Korean society. Through its lyrical prose and vivid imagery, “The Vegetarian” challenges readers to question societal norms and embrace personal freedom.

3. “I’ll Be Right There” by Kyung-Sook Shin

In “I’ll Be Right There,” Kyung-Sook Shin explores the themes of love, loss, and memory against the backdrop of political turmoil in 1980s South Korea. The novel follows Jung Yoon, a university student who navigates her tumultuous relationships with her friends and lovers while grappling with the traumatic events of her past. Through its evocative portrayal of a generation haunted by the ghosts of history, “I’ll Be Right There” offers a moving meditation on the power of friendship and resilience.

4. “The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly” by Sun-Mi Hwang

“The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly” is a charming fable that follows the journey of a hen named Sprout who dreams of hatching her own egg and raising a chick. Determined to break free from the confines of her farm life, Sprout embarks on a daring adventure into the unknown, encountering friends and foes alike. Through Sprout’s quest for freedom and self-discovery, Sun-Mi Hwang crafts a timeless tale about the importance of courage, perseverance, and following one’s dreams.


Korean literature offers a treasure trove of captivating stories and compelling characters for young adult readers to explore. Whether delving into the complexities of family dynamics, grappling with existential questions, or embarking on fantastical adventures, Korean novels provide a rich tapestry of experiences that resonate across cultures and generations. As the global interest in Korean culture continues to grow, these novels serve as valuable windows into the heart and soul of Korea, enriching the literary landscape and fostering greater cross-cultural understanding.