Saturday 17 September 2022

Book Review: The Story of Hong Gildong (Classics)

Title: The Story of Hong Gildong
Author: -
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 2016 (1600)
Pages: 100
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics
Source: Bought Copy
The Story of Hong Gildong is arguably the single most important work of classic Korean fiction. Like its English counterpart, Robin Hood, it has been adapted into countless movies, television shows, novels and comics. Its memorable lines are known to virtually every Korean by heart. Until now, this incredible 19th century fable has been all but inaccessible to English readers.

Hong Gildong, the brilliant but illegitimate son of a government minister, cannot advance in society due to his secondary status, so he leaves home to become the leader of a band of outlaws who rob the rich to give to the poor. On the way to building his own empire and gaining acceptance from his family, Hong Gildong vanquishes assassins, battles monsters, and conquers kingdoms. Minsoo Kang's expressive and animated new translation finally makes the original text of this classic available in English, re-introducing a noble and righteous outlaw and sharing a beloved hallmark of Korean culture.


The Story of Hong Gildong is an amusing adventure story. Although a 'classic', it is not high-brow literature but rather a fantasy-adventure tale with a hero easily recognised in popular culture. The tale is entertaining and is a quick, easy read. Worth a look if you like Robin Hood-style adventure stories or if you are interested in the history of Korea and Korean literature, or Korean culture more broadly. The notes at the back explain any unfamiliar terms or cultural references. It gets four stars from me.

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