Book Review: First Kyu

Overall Rating: 10 / 10 Ponnuki

Basic Information

  • Title: First Kyu
  • Author: Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong
  • Publisher: Good Move Press
  • Publication Date: July 1999
  • Page Length: 194 pages


  • A compelling story that is a fast read, but keeps you on the edge of your seat.
  • A fantastic insight into the world of go in Korea.
  • Even if we subtract the aspect of go from the book, it is still a great story that I think many will appreciate.
  • Highly recommended for anyone with the slightest interest in go/baduk/weiqi.

Detailed Review

I don’t know about you, but I always wondered what the lives of other go players are like. For example, what is life like in an Asian country where go is popular and someone, who is not an insei, decides to pursue the goal of becoming a professional? After all, we all know that there is a test that everyone takes to become a professional, but what about the journey up to that point? There must be so much more than simply studying 24/7 and managing to pass the test. What about real life stuff?

Fortunately for me and the entire go world, Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong did a brilliant job answering those questions and many more through his spellbinding story of a boy named Wook and his pursuit of becoming a professional go player.

What makes this book so compelling is the fact that while the central plot is around go, Dr. Hong’s depiction of Wook’s everyday life and how it impacts his journey is just mind-blowing. As if that wasn’t enough to make it an excellent read, there are so many nuances about the Korean culture that you learn along the way that make it an even more enjoyable experience.

An interesting trivia about this book is the fact that the book was actually originally written in Korean. As with most books that are written in other languages, a translator usually steps into the picture. However, Dr. Hong was concerned that a lot of the tenacity and aura of the book would be lost through a third person translator that he translated the whole thing himself (which is an impressive feat in my book). And to be honest, I’m glad he did, because I don’t think the book would’ve been nearly as awesome if he hadn’t done it himself.

So if you’re still wondering how good this book is, this is an incredible book that could even serve as a catalyst for non-go players to take an interest in go. In fact, I might even go as far to say that this book could be the Hikaru no Go for adults who don’t like comics/anime. In fact, if there were ever a movie about go that could gain success with the masses, it would need to be based off this book. And finally, I finished the entire book in one sitting because I couldn’t stand the idea of stopping.

That’s right. It’s that good.

Table of Contents

_I’ve decided not to jot down the table of contents since it is a little revealing as to how the plot progresses. It’s better you just trust me and read it for yourself. _

  1. Amazon - $50.00* (S&H not included)

Note: Amazon used to carry this book, but it seems that it’s rather difficult to locate now. So if anyone ever notices the price/availability of the book has changed or if you know of any other vendors, please let me know!

Last Updated December 29th, 2012