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FICTION

Chick Lit, Korean Style: Style by Baek Young Ok

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.1 Autumn 2008
  • byJung Yeo-ul
Style
2008
336pp.

“Sex and the City,” a popular television series, has captivated women across the world. The hugely successful series has demonstrated how up-and-coming single women in a big city explore their true identity – through sex and shopping. Something more than a simple adoration of Carrie and Samantha is at work. The single women in “Sex and the City” openly pursue their capitalist fetishes and desires, a point that strikes many female viewers as refreshing.

Taking a cue from “Sex and the City,” Baek Young Ok’s Style targets readers who avidly absorb chick lit novels. Lee Seo-jeong has been working as a fashion magazine reporter for eight years, and like Carrie in “Sex and the City,” she has an unlimited passion for Hermes bags and Manolo Blahnik heels, but she also has a not-so-materialist side, such as her longstanding contribution to a charity that helps starving children in Africa. For Lee, there is no conflict between her addictive shopping for luxury goods and her sincere concern about African kids facing starvation. Some will see snobbery in Lee, but deep inside her lies a complex mind that rarely reconciles with all her materialist desires.

The protagonist’s life is surrounded by interesting figures: a brand addict, a shopping queen, an expert in flattery, a cynical cook, and a workaholic who suffers from “smile syndrome.” She encounters one interesting character after another, which sheds light on the complex reality of Korean society. Despite her eight years of work experience, she does not have much extra cash in her savings account, no insurance, no mutual funds, and no boyfriend. In a single day, she considers resigning several times, but she still nurtures her fantasy about romantic and realistic love. She also serves up what her female colleagues chatter about in the workplace: “Whenever I think I’ve met a good catch, he turned out to be either married or gay! I don’t know why things go this way here.” “I don’t bother to have good sex. What I really want now is just to kick out of this double life of writing about well-being and at the same time eating only instant noodles.” Style portrays people who judge each other as snobs without revealing their true nature, but leaves a hopeful vision of reconciliation and mutual understanding.