Seo Mi-ae, the queen of the South Korean thriller makes a stopover in Besançon

Above all, don’t be fooled by Seo Mi-ae’s quiet and very “next door” appearance. Her discreet smile hides a fertile imagination that has made her the queen of South Korean thrillers. There, she became known in 1994 with her first novel with an evocative title The 30 Best Ways to Murder Your Husband. Then in 2009, his second novel, The dolls garden, received the first Korean thriller prize in 2009.

For his first trip to France, Seo Mi-ae stops in Paris and Besançon To the Reservoir Books bookstore to present Good night mom and Shh, it’s a secret (Matin Calme editions) the first two opus of a trilogy which features a serial killer, a criminologist and a young 11-year-old teenager, with a disturbing psychological profile with signs of hidden violence.

I’m interested in the dark side of the character. What my heroine does comes from her childhood, the physical and moral violence she suffered and the lack of affection from those around her.

Will Seo Mi-ae have the same success in France as in Korea? The coming months will tell. But what is certain is that she will ride on this lasting infatuation of the French public for South Korean culture.

A craze that began with the musical trend K-pop (Korean pop), then with the Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho, crowned with a Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2019 with Parasite. Latest success, the series Squid Game streamed on Netflix. On closer inspection, we find in all these creations what makes the heart of Seo Mi-ae’s novels, namely a very strong physical but also psychological violence.

On the literature side, two publishers have chosen to embark on this promising niche. In January 2020, Pierre Bisiou and Irène Ronandini created Editions Matin Calme, only house in the world specializing in K-Thriller. Inaugurated with Hot blood by Kim Un-Su, the catalog now has around thirty titles. For Pierre Bisiou, the Korean thriller will constitute another wave. “After Nordic, French readers have taken to reading something other than French or American. They opened up to other horizons “.

Born during the Cold War, the Korean thriller was first a station novel whose themes were centered on espionage between the two Koreas, betrayal … Then this literature was enriched with authors drawing their inspiration in the European “masters”, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Maurice Leblanc (the creator of our Arsène Lupin). In the 90s, which are those of democratization, a new type of thriller appears which auscultates the dark side of the country and its inhabitants: violence against women and children, corruption in companies, impunity of the powerful …

On the site Korea.net, Pierre Bisiou emphasizes that the South Korean thriller is unique in that it is very feminine. Half of the catalog of Editions Matin Calme is composed of authors. According to him, “this thriller is not formatted and follows its own path and constantly surprises us “.

Seo Mi-ae (right) with his translator and Bruno Bachelier, manager of the Reservoir Books bookstore in Besançon. (D. Colle / France Televisions)

“Good night mom” (320 pages – € 19.90) and “Shhh, it’s a secret” (267 pages – € 19.90), by Seo Mi-ae, with Editions Matin Calme

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Seo Mi-ae, the queen of the South Korean thriller makes a stopover in Besançon