Tag Archives: kim hyun sook

Nuclear Family banner ad

Review: Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club is an inspiring and educational piece of graphic non-fiction from writers Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada with manhwa-influenced visuals from artists Ko Hyung-Ju. It tells the story of the 1983 student protests about South Korea’s authoritarian Fifth Republic from the perspective of Hyun Sook herself, who begins as a young, timid girl that just wants to study English literature, and ends up joining the revolution via extracurricular activities. (I will be using Kim Hyun Sook for the character and Hyun Sook for the creator.)

However, between dodging cops, dealing with her friends being arrested, and sexual harassment from her once respected literature professor, Kim Hyun Sook finds self-actualization and also learns a little bit how the world works. I mean why would a regime ban books with fascist enemies if deep down, they didn’t see a little of themselves in these books. Banned Book Club is also a strong narrative argument for the power of literature, including fiction and nonfiction, to effect change and use things like imagery and metaphor to expose the truth about the world. In that case, maybe this comic is just a tiny bit metafictional.

Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju do an excellent job harmonizing the words and visuals in Banned Book Club to create a certain feel on different pages or get a point across. For example, there’s a flurry of word balloons when the members of the book club get in an argument when one of their members are jailed. On the other hand, they drop out the dialogue for more tense, action-driven scenes like when Hyun Sook takes multiple buses to deliver a package from the club to one at another university as part of her “public relations” duties.

Panel Mania: Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and ...

This variety in storytelling keeps Banned Book Club interesting, and I love how Hyung-Ju’s characters wear their emotions on their sleeves. He also uses shadow and differences in line thickness to show when they’re afraid, embarrassed, or more relaxed. The relaxed emotion doesn’t pop up that much in the story, but it’s on full display during the club’s 2016 class reunion when they band together to protest another authoritarian South Korean president. This epilogue adds perspective to the events of the previous chapter and also is just a damn good testimonial to the power of protest. I mean, imagine if Americans went out and protested Trump every weekend of his impeachment hearings…

Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Hyung-Ju aren’t afraid to whip up a little controversy in Banned Book Club with the club member Jihoo reading the writings of North Korea’s authoritarian dictator Kim Il-Sung under the guise of a book of love poems. (Of course, he’s the one club member who actually gets arrested.) Jihoo gets some gentle ribbing from his friends for reading “government propaganda”, but it’s a testimonial to their dedication to freedom of speech and the press that he doesn’t get censured.

The pages where he reads Kim Il-Sung’s overwrought, loaded writing shows that the freedom to read extends to books that one doesn’t agree with. But it’s also connected to the freedom to critique books. I have to give kudos to Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Hyung-Ju for using this consequence-infused scene to add ambiguity to the club’s activities. They weren’t just reading Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Noam Chomsky and trying to save South Korea; they were also reading North Korean propaganda to compare it to the techniques their government were using. It’s an example of the book club just wanting to have freedom of inquiry at university instead of being stuck reading, thinking, and publishing (In the case of the school newspaper.) what the government approves.

Banned Book Club has its fair share of dark and tragic material like any time a member of the club is hauled in for questioning by the government. Hyung-Ju use thick cross hatching to show the pain and stress the club members are under, which is contrasted with Hyun Sook and Estrada’s dialogue for the guard, who talks about catching “bad guys” to his son on the phone. It’s the banality of evil in action showing that authoritarianism is propagated by its yes people.

Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju turn in the next great historical non-fiction comic in Banned Book Club as they portray a pivotal time in South Korean history from a ground-level point of view. They also explore the relationship between politics and art through three-dimensional characters with even Hyun Sook’s father getting a spotlight when he tells the backstory of why he decided to start a steak restaurant and letting his daughter know that it’s okay to have dreams that aren’t in line with societal norms. Finally, Banned Book Club is a wonderful showcase for the connection between the visual and verbal, which is what the comics medium does best.

Story: Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada Art: Ko Hyung-Ju
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

Iron Circus Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: AmazonBookshopTFAW

Advance Review: Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club is an inspiring and educational piece of graphic non-fiction from writers Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada with manhwa-influenced visuals from artists Ko Hyung-Ju. It tells the story of the 1983 student protests about South Korea’s authoritarian Fifth Republic from the perspective of Hyun Sook herself, who begins as a young, timid girl that just wants to study English literature, and ends up joining the revolution via extracurricular activities. (I will be using Kim Hyun Sook for the character and Hyun Sook for the creator.)

However, between dodging cops, dealing with her friends being arrested, and sexual harassment from her once respected literature professor, Kim Hyun Sook finds self-actualization and also learns a little bit how the world works. I mean why would a regime ban books with fascist enemies if deep down, they didn’t see a little of themselves in these books. Banned Book Club is also a strong narrative argument for the power of literature, including fiction and nonfiction, to effect change and use things like imagery and metaphor to expose the truth about the world. In that case, maybe this comic is just a tiny bit metafictional.

Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju do an excellent job harmonizing the words and visuals in Banned Book Club to create a certain feel on different pages or get a point across. For example, there’s a flurry of word balloons when the members of the book club get in an argument when one of their members are jailed. On the other hand, they drop out the dialogue for more tense, action-driven scenes like when Hyun Sook takes multiple buses to deliver a package from the club to one at another university as part of her “public relations” duties.

Panel Mania: Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and ...

This variety in storytelling keeps Banned Book Club interesting, and I love how Hyung-Ju’s characters wear their emotions on their sleeves. He also uses shadow and differences in line thickness to show when they’re afraid, embarrassed, or more relaxed. The relaxed emotion doesn’t pop up that much in the story, but it’s on full display during the club’s 2016 class reunion when they band together to protest another authoritarian South Korean president. This epilogue adds perspective to the events of the previous chapter and also is just a damn good testimonial to the power of protest. I mean, imagine if Americans went out and protested Trump every weekend of his impeachment hearings…

Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Hyung-Ju aren’t afraid to whip up a little controversy in Banned Book Club with the club member Jihoo reading the writings of North Korea’s authoritarian dictator Kim Il-Sung under the guise of a book of love poems. (Of course, he’s the one club member who actually gets arrested.) Jihoo gets some gentle ribbing from his friends for reading “government propaganda”, but it’s a testimonial to their dedication to freedom of speech and the press that he doesn’t get censured.

The pages where he reads Kim Il-Sung’s overwrought, loaded writing shows that the freedom to read extends to books that one doesn’t agree with. But it’s also connected to the freedom to critique books. I have to give kudos to Hyun Sook, Estrada, and Hyung-Ju for using this consequence-infused scene to add ambiguity to the club’s activities. They weren’t just reading Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Noam Chomsky and trying to save South Korea; they were also reading North Korean propaganda to compare it to the techniques their government were using. It’s an example of the book club just wanting to have freedom of inquiry at university instead of being stuck reading, thinking, and publishing (In the case of the school newspaper.) what the government approves.

Banned Book Club has its fair share of dark and tragic material like any time a member of the club is hauled in for questioning by the government. Hyung-Ju use thick cross hatching to show the pain and stress the club members are under, which is contrasted with Hyun Sook and Estrada’s dialogue for the guard, who talks about catching “bad guys” to his son on the phone. It’s the banality of evil in action showing that authoritarianism is propagated by its yes people.

Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju turn in the next great historical non-fiction comic in Banned Book Club as they portray a pivotal time in South Korean history from a ground-level point of view. They also explore the relationship between politics and art through three-dimensional characters with even Hyun Sook’s father getting a spotlight when he tells the backstory of why he decided to start a steak restaurant and letting his daughter know that it’s okay to have dreams that aren’t in line with societal norms. Finally, Banned Book Club is a wonderful showcase for the connection between the visual and verbal, which is what the comics medium does best.

Story: Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada Art: Ko Hyung-Ju
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

Banned Book Club is out May 19, 2020, Preorder: AmazonBookshop
Iron Circus Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Preview: Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club

WRITERS: Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada
ILLUSTRATOR: Ko Hyung-Ju
AGE RANGE: Teen
GENRE: YA / Memoir
SRP: $15
PAGE COUNT: 198
PUB DATE: May 19, 2020
ISBN #:  9781945820427
PUBLISHER: Iron Circus Comics

When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

In BANNED BOOK CLUB, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.

Banned Book Club