Bae graduated from Ewha Womans University with a degree in Chemistry. At the time of her debut in 1993, she was a government employee working behind the embarkation/disembarkation desk at Gimpo Airport in Incheon. Without formal instruction or guidance from a literary mentor, Bae wrote stories as a hobby. But it wasn’t long before she left her stultifying job to become one of the most daringly unconventional writers to grace the Korean literary establishment in modern years.
She made her debut as a writer with A Dark Room in 1988. Bae stayed in Germany for 11 months between 2001 and 2002, where she began learning German.
Bae has departed from the tradition of mainstream literature and created her own literary world based on a unique style and knack for psychological description.
Bae made her debut as a writer with A Dark Room in 1988. Since then, she has published two anthologies of short fiction, including the novella Highway With Green Apples. She has also published novels, including Rhapsody in Blue. Her work is regarded as unconventional in the extreme, including such unusual topics as men becoming victims of domestic violence by their female spouses (in “Sunday at the Sukiyaki Restaurant”). characterized by tense-shifting and alterations in perspective. Her most recent works are nearly a-fictional, decrying characterization and plot.
Bae is known for her use of abrupt shifts in tense and perspective, sensitive yet straightforward expressions, and seemingly non sequitur sentences to unsettle and distance her readers. Bae’s works offer neither the reassurance of moral conventions upheld, nor the consolation of adversities rendered meaningful. Most of her characters harbor traumatic memories from which they may never fully emerge, and their families, shown to be in various stages of disintegration, only add to the sense of loneliness and gloom dominating their lives. A conversation between friends shatters the idealized vision of love; verbal abuse constitutes a family interaction; and masochistic self-loathing fills internal monologues. The author’s own attitude toward the world and the characters she has created is sardonic at best.
• Highway with Green Apples (푸른 사과가 있는 국도) (1995). Translated by Sora Kim-Russell for the December 18, 2013 of "Day One", a digital literary journal by Amazon Publishing
• Rhapsody in Blue (랩소디 인 블루) (1995).
• Cheolsu (철수) (1998). Translated by Sora Kim-Russell as Nowhere to Be Found, AmazonCrossing, 2015.
• Ivana (이바나) (2002).
• Sunday at the Sukiyaki Restaurant (일요일 스키야키 식당) (2003).
• The Essayist's Desk (에세이스트의 책상) (2003). Translated by Deborah Smith as A Greater Music, Open Letter, 2016.
• Solitary Scholar (독학자) (2004).
• Hul (훌) (2006). Includes the short story Time in Gray (회색時), translated as a standalone volume by Chang Chung-hwa (장정화) and Andrew James Keast for ASIA Publishers’ Bilingual Edition Modern Korean Literature Series, 2013; and the short story Towards Marzahn (낯선 천국으로의 여행), translated by Annah Overly as "Toward Marzahn," 2014.
• North-Facing Living Room (북쪽 거실) (2009).
• The Owls' Absence (올빼미의 없음) (2010). Translated by Deborah Smith as North Station, Open Letter, 2017.
• The Low Hills of Seoul (서울의 낮은 언덕들) (2011). Translated by Deborah Smith as Recitation, Deep Vellum, 2017.
• Inscrutable Nights and Days (알려지지 않은 밤과 하루) (2013). Translated by Deborah Smith but no publisher.
• Dongseo Literary Prize, 2004
• Hankook Ilbo Literary Prize, 2003