Un-Su Kim was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels, including The Plotters, which was published in English by 4th Estate in 2019. For The Cabinet, he won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea's most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de la Littérature Policière. He currently lives in Jinhae-gu, South Korea.

Sean Lin Halbert, born and raised in Seattle, graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Korean Language and a B.S. in Applied Physics. He has also gained a master's degree at the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Seoul National University. He currently resides in Seoul.

The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim

Cabinet 13 looks exactly like any normal filing cabinet. Except this cabinet is filled with files on the 'symptomers', people whose weird abilities and bizarre experiences might just mark the emergence of a new species.

But to Mr Kong, the harried office worker who spends his days looking after the cabinet, the symptomers are just a headache; from the woman whose doppelganger broke up with her boyfriend, to the man with a ginkgo tree growing from his fingertip. And then there's that guy who won't stop calling, asking to be turned into a cat…

A richly funny and fantastical novel about the strangeness at the heart of even the most ordinary lives, from one of South Korea's most acclaimed novelists.


A brilliant novel not at all like you'd expect, by a brilliant Korean writer, translated by Sean Lin Halbert. This was one of last year's highlights – and just look at that incredible cover! One not to be missed. – Lavie Tidhar



  • "[A] brilliant mosaic novel...These stories straddle the lines between science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, and acute reality."

    – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • "Deftly translated by award-winning Halbert, Kim's latest import... again showcases his sly, surreal, dark humor about all the ways humans are, well, not particularly human."

    – Booklist
  • "What begins as a rather whimsical set of stories turns into a much darker novel, raising issues of difference and acceptance, what people must do to survive, and what is truly monstrous."

    – The Guardian
  • "The Cabinet is an anti-capitalist narrative at its core, one that makes explicit the arbitrariness of capitalist expectations and assumptions. Kim deftly juggles both macro-level and micro-level ideas about social roles, purpose, and personal narrative. More of a thought experiment than a thriller, The Cabinet is a lighthearted, amusing read that nonetheless dives into some deep philosophical topics."

    – Strange Horizons
  • "The Cabinet is a sly, whimsical satire of life in late-stage capitalism, slippery and surreal... a kind of echoing chamber in which the comic, heartbreaking and terrifying bounce against, amplify and distort one another."

    – Amar El-Mohtar , The New York Times




It is called Cabinet 13. But there is no particular reason for the number 13. It only means it's the thirteenth cabinet from the left. This would probably be a better introduction if it had a fancier name. But then again, what would you expect from a cabinet?

There is no need to imagine anything grand. If by some chance you intend on reading this book to the end, it would be best if you rid yourself now of any fanciful or romantic expectations, because if you have such expectations, you will only see that or less.

No, this is an exceedingly ordinary cabinet. The kind that was in vogue in government office buildings during the 80s and 90s. It is an unsightly, dilapidated cabinet, mind you. The kind perfect for stashing away smelly gym clothes, lonely tennis shoes, deflated soccer balls, and expired documents. The sort of cabinet that requires no imagination to think of. Yes, that thing you just thought of now, despite saying to yourself, "No, you can't mean this." Yes, that. That is precisely the kind of cabinet we're talking about.