Recommended Korean articles/books for each level

23 January, 2013

I’ve been receiving quite a lot of emails/comments etc asking if I can recommend Korean articles/books to read for their respective levels.  I know a lot of learners are relying on Korean textbooks as their main reading practice and wondering when they are “ready” to step out of that comfort zone to read “real materials”. There is no such thing as being “ready to read real materials”. You will never be ready. Because the ability to be able to read in Korean relies on you ACTUALLY doing it. Do I make sense?

In any case, just do it.

There are tons of materials online, and I’m the kind that buys difficult books, realize that they are really above my level, but still try to read them anyway, and then succeed at doing so. (like 전우치 and my history books)

One important note. Reading in a foreign language is always challenging and at times, frustrating. We are all used to be able to speed read in our languages, and the fact that we can’t understand a foreign language book can be upsetting. You will continue to be frustrated until you reached advanced level (5 years for me) and then you will be able to start reading leisurely. ㅋㅋㅋ

JUST DO IT. We all have to start somewhere. 

But to give you a push, I’ll be recommending a few articles / books here. Based on my own experiences etc. Will turn this into a page soon when I find more stuff.. XD

Beginner (~1 year into Korean)

Entertainment news are the easiest to read. And they are free. And you get to know all about the latest dramas/movies/kpop happenings. First hand news 😀 They always use the same few vocabulary and the sentences are pretty short. Unlike more serious news where sentences seem to go on forever and ever.

Try these few:

‘최고다 이순신’ 캐스팅, 유인나 “긍정적 검토중”

김선아, 소유진 결혼식 인증샷 “신부 옆에서도 빛나는 꽃미모”

Low intermediate – mid intermediate

Get a real Korean book. Non-fiction is easier. Trust me.

  • 세상에 너를 소리쳐 (big bang autobiography) – no I’m not being biased!!

You will be tempted to get translated fiction books. Like Korean Twilight, Harry Potter or what not. Unless you are a huge fan, NO. No point getting translated stuff. If you are that scared that you can’t read Korean without knowing the English translation, you will never get out of that comfort zone.

Continue reading news articles. Start going for longer articles.

Try these few:

[스타칼럼-빅뱅] 3부. 월드투어 비하인드 스토리 (탑)

영화 `베를린`은 할리우드式 액션 스릴러

시골서 폭스바겐 ‘난리’…무슨 일 있었나

High Intermediate (TOPIK 4)

You can actually read a lot of stuff already. Most news articles won’t be too difficult for you, so just go according to your hobbies and preferences.

For books, most non-fiction books should be kinda readable. So choose whatever you want.

You can start going into fiction books too. Teen novels are the most readable.

  • 몽실언니 (a bit higher level than the one below) – FYI I’m reading this now and it’s easy for me
  •  풀빵엄마
  • 우리들의 행복한 시간
  • 엄마를 부탁해

You can start reading all those drama novels too!


Hello if you are at this stage, just read anything. Why do you need my recommendations? hahahaha.


This is just a short list that I clobbered together in 15 min hahaha. So yup I’ll try to expand it soon ok. If you end up reading the recommended articles, tell me how you find them k! ^^

The list is also just a starting point. Don’t feel that you can’t attempt a Korean novel just because you are at the “intermediate” stage only. Nonsense. Challenge yourself. Go for it.

(if you guys ever wondered why I can reach a supposedly high level in a supposedly short(er) period of time, it’s because I’m constantly challenging myself and going for materials that are “seemingly not my level”)

Remember. It’s normal to find the articles challenging and hard. That’s the point anyway.

    1. In the intermediate stage, you were against those people who want to read a translated book.
      I have a different opinion. I think it’s not a bad idea.
      Well, the way I looked at it is not looking at the translation word for word – and I don’t so much encourage that, so you’ll know the plot and what happens and it’ll push you a long a little more – and also you’ll be able to pick up more from context in that way. (For example when I was learning French in high school, I convinced my French teacher to let me read Harry Potter instead of the boring graded reader all the other students read. And I knowing the general content, I was able to get through the book easier, and also figure out things like “baguette magique’ (which looks like it means magical baguette and you think about the bread) is actually a ‘magic stick’ aka wand.)

      That being said, if you’re like me and you prefer fiction, do not try for fantasy or science fiction generally. The problem is that there are going to be lots of made up words that you can’t look up in a dictionary and makes it a lot harder to get through. I thought it would be more interesting, but it’s really difficult to figure out new words in those settings.

      1. I also think there is value to reading translated books, but you have to do so with discernment, knowing the phraseology isn’t going to be natural, and being suspicious of collocations that are common in English. The language used in translation isn’t incorrect, it’s just not always typical.
        Translations can be especially apt if you have trouble grasping the “big picture”, but they just shouldn’t be your only source of written input.

        1. yeah that’s true! ^^ I found it really awkward reading some of the phrasings, that’s why I didn’t like those books that much. But you’re right, it does help grasp the big picture!

      1. Yeah I do agree! ^^ Sometimes I’m too enthusiastic about sharing my own experiences that i may come across as a little ermm opinionated 😛 Personally, I don’t really like reading the few translated books that I own but yeah, it does help to push a little more. Knowing the plot does help me read on further. I have Totto Chan in English and the Japanese version ^^

        I haven’t try reading fantasy / Sci Fic in Korean. would be quite interesting to find out how they write those. XD

      1. It’s an old post I know but I agree with most of what Sojin says. Teaching English… I found that Dr Seuss books are only useful for high level students,eg; the better High School and above students who know enough vocab to be able to recognize made up words. It can be a fun way to test such students though. They enjoy trying to guess which are made up words.
        For myself in Korean, I’m still stuck with little kids versions of ‘Little red Riding Hood’, ‘Babo Ondal’..’Thumbelina’ and so on. I didn’t know most of the Korean stories before I read them in Korean so it has been fun, and there’s been plenty of vocab work from all of them. .

    1. I agree with your comments on finding real materials to read!but I started a bit late now though it is only in my 2nd yr of learning korean which is around 1-2 months before this that i started to find some real materials to read.and I think I just went mad cause I ordered the reply 1997 novel and will try to challange myself into reading that novel after it arrives and I am planning to get another korean novel or so…perhaps the moon that embraces the sun maybe?If I really get that book I think I have totally went crazy because it is a historical novel and i think i will be stuck to my computer for naver dictionary.nevertheless I think I should start challenging myself now.If not,when will I ever do it?

      1. ahhh reply 1997!! I’m too broke for new books D: D: I really love the moon embraces sun drama even though people said that it’s too focused on that ONE love and the king should get over it. But I totally admire the king for being faithful after so long XD

      1. Thanks! Just hoping to jumpstart things (: Sometimes the start is always the hardest!

    1. Most important is to choose something that you find interesting…
      I find non-fiction interesting, so that’s been my main reading topic up until recently. I have a hard time finding novels that I’m really interested in reading, so that’s a bit of a problem… I do want to read 토지 by 박경리, but that’s 7000 pages long…

      1. Yupp interest is really important! 😀 I don’t really know that many Korean authors, so either I just go for the drama novels, the super famous ones, or random picks (like what I’ve been doing recently). 7000 pages is a lot O.o is that a famous modern literature or something?

        1. It’s been called the great Korean novel and compared to War and Peace… a historical novel that took 25 years to write. Koreans find it hard to read, and it’s got a lot of 사투리 in it, so I won’t try reading it for some time…

          1. wow I’m interested now.. but checked it out on Gmarket and it’s 215,000won(!!!), not even counting shipping… D: D: D:

    1. One year into learning Korean, I thought I wouldn’t be able to read Korean articles until I tried searching for more information about YG’s upcoming girl group. I was surprised that I could understand the articles so I volunteered to translate articles for a fansite. But I had to quit.

      Just like you, I always buy books or look for articles that are advanced for my level coz I like to challenge myself. I even bought Reply 1997 even though I don’t understand Busan dialect at all. Haha! But after an hour of reading, I was able to learn a lot of phrases in Busan dialect with the help of a Korean friend from Busan. It’s so interesting. I guess it’s safe to say that in language learning, one must be willing to take some risk to acquire more knowledge.

      1. ahhhh everyone is buying reply 1997 D: D: I want too! Totally agree with you, risk taking and stepping out of the comfort zone is important!

    1. That is a great idea.
      At some point when I was learning English I was really curious about a book. I had a lot of difficulty reading it, but I was stubborn. I think that book alone had an inpact on my knowledge of English more than anything else.

      1. yeahh. I think 전우치 has the same impact for me! I realized that I improved a lot after reading it (and during the process)

    1. Can I just write down the part about challenging yourself on some sticky notes and place them all over the house? ‘Cause reading that always keeps me motivated. XD Thank you for posting this! I plan to read the articles you put there for the beginners once I finish some house cleaning. ^^ Responsibilities suck sometimes. XD

      1. Thanks for reading! Hope you will find those articles easier than you thought! 😀

    1. I actually just ordered the bigbang autobiography over the weekend because of Shanna’s previous blog posts about it. I know it’s going to take me forever to read it, but I’m excited for the challenge . Plus I’m a big G Dragon fan. 🙂

    1. hey Shanna! i just wanted to drop you a note after i finished reading your entire blog. yup, i started from the end and went backwards. it was a sort of palate cleanser for some mind-numbing paperwork i was doing. i learned a lot and i admire your can-do attitude towards self-learning. keep it up!

        • wow thanks!! Really made my day ^^ That was .. a lot that you had to read. I think there are 800 plus posts. o.O It’s been fun writing this blog and hope to see you here often! (:
    1. Yay! Thanks for the links, Shanna!
      I have one to share too:
      Probably many of you know already? I don’t know hahaha But there are some hard cartoons, some easy ones, it’s about trying out and finding some about your level… some time ago I was reading an easy one about a black dog, but it was sad, so I stopped reading u.u hahaha

      1. hahaha I get affected when I read sad stuff too D: Thanks for sharing the link!

    1. Thanks Shanna for the all the resources! 😀 I agree, i think the hardest part is to get out of your comfort zone to use korean! i think we rely too much on our native lanugage, i know i definitely do still. i feel like it’s to get away from it, but we have to use a different mindset right? I see you didn’t mention TTMIK 이야기 intermediate lessons! What is your opinion of those :D? and what level would you recommend for someone wanting to check it out ?

      on a sidenote, i totally never noticed that you don’t have a profile picture here! :O what’s with that hahaha???

      1. hahahaha! I’m a pretty private person so yep, no photos 😛 Although I’m contradicting myself with the videos I post -_-
        I haven’t had the chance to really check out the recent TTMIK lessons D: I think they are good for all levels. Good for the beginners to get a sense of how Korean intonation etc is like and good for those intermediate learning to listen to harder and more natural content and fun to listen to for advanced learners too!

        1. hahaha i was going to say the selcas you posted instead :p
          aww that sucks, you should definitely check it out if you have some time! they have post more stuff for the advanced learners also 😀 okay thanks!

          another question: can you describe the taste of 짜장면 into words? my friend sent me 짜파게티, but i’m wondering how it will taste? but she can’t describe it into words

    1. “I’m the kind that buys difficult books, realize that they are really above my level, but still try to read them anyway, and then succeed at doing so.” XDDD This is the same thing I do. It’s like I just refuse to think that something is too challenging for me and I just have to succeed. It’s exactly why I started diving into those articles on Naver.

      I have accepted the fact that I’m going to have to print out articles, observe how the grammar I know is used, search up words and phrases, and then write all over the stuff with lots of notes. It’s a challenge and I’m not really ready, but I’m going to act like I am and dive in. Naver is my homepage so I can’t forget about it. XD

      1. hehehe yeah somehow I always think that nothing is too difficult when it comes to Korean. Wish I can apply the same mentality to other aspects of my life rofl.

        I used to print out the articles too. Until I decided that I should save paper and ink. And screw my eyesight even more 😛

    1. Hi, Shanna!
      Thank you very much for such a useful post)
      It’s very encouraging and motivating. Right after reading it I finally translated my first article. Many many thanks!

      I have a question for you, it’s about korean handwriting:
      All the korean handwritings I’ve ever seen tend to slant to the left or just have no slope. Is it wrong to have a right slope?

      1. that’s awesome!! (:

        mmmm i haven’t thought about that question. I don’t really have the chance to see many korean handwriting so… i don’t have an answer 😛

    1. I know it’s late but what can you say about Korean from zero? It is sold at amazon but is also free to download on their website and has audio files as well.

    1. 이것은 매우 도움이된다… 언니, 정말 감사합니다..!!

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