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Category Archives: Uncategorized

Open Culture Posts on Korea

Since 2012 I’ve written about all manner of topics at Open Culture, and you can find a selection of some of my favorite posts over the years in the Open Culture section of my essays page. Sometimes write there about things Korean — South Korea being the country in which I live, and about which I regularly write on the […]

Korea Blog: An Introduction to Outsider Novelist-Essayist Bae Suah

Bae Suah has a dedicated readership in her native South Korea, owing to the unconventional nature of her fiction as well as her passage into literary fame. Over the past half-decade her work has begun to appear in English translation, and in that form it has met with bad reviews: not negative reviews but badly […]

Books on Cities: Owen Hatherley, “Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent” (2018)

The publisher of Owen Hatherley’s Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent sent me a copy addressed to “Colin Marshall, Cities Writer.” Though I’ve never worked under that title, I can hardly reject it; then again, it would seem to apply rather better to Hatherley himself, who despite being only three years older than me has published […]

Books on Cities: Christopher Alexander, “A Pattern Language”

When urban theorists speak of “reading” the city, they usually leave the mechanics of the act to the reader’s imagination. In 1977, Christopher Alexander launched himself high into the urbanist canon by taking the opposite approach, creating with his team at Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Structure a set of verbal tools to make legible, discuss, […]

Korea Blog: Six Expatriate Writers Give Six Views of Seoul in a New Short-Fiction Anthology, “A City of Han”

As a cradle of expatriate literature, Seoul has thus far proven to be no Prague, Mexico City, or Tangier, to say nothing of a Vienna or Paris. That’s not for lack of desire among expatriates themselves: every few months here I get word of the existence of another Westerner-oriented writing workshop, or contacted by another […]

Korea Blog: The Explosively Controversial “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” Comes Out in English

The tagline of last year’s cautiously anticipated film Kim Jiyoung: Born 1982 (82년생 김지영) promised to tell “your story and mine.” The picture itself delivers only to the extent that you or I happen to be a Korean woman in early middle age, and even then to the extent that our background aligns with the title character’s. But […]

Korea Blog: In Praise of Pilsa, the Highly Uncreative Korean Method of Learning to Write

Many Western expatriates start feeling their days in Korea are numbered as soon as they become parents. “We’ll have to leave before the kid starts school,” I often hear; the combination of urgency and vagueness reminds me of Los Angeles parents insisting that one “just can’t” send one’s children to whichever local public school their […]

Korea Blog: The Coronavirus Breaks Out in Itaewon, the “Gays-and-Foreigners” Seoul Neighborhood Celebrated in a Hit Netflix Drama

They say you can find anything in Itaewon. To find Itaewon itself, you need only head toward the very center of Seoul, right next to the old United States Army base. To orient yourself within Itaewon, you need only know three landmarks: “Hooker Hill,” “Homo Hill,” and “Halal Hill.” Though unlikely to appear on an […]

Architectural Review: Hyundai Card’s Gapado Project

Within South Korea, you can hardly get further from the capital Seoul than the island of Gapado. The journey requires a 70-minute flight to Jejudo, the country’s largest island, then a trip across it by car or bus to a port on its south coast, and from there a 15-minute ferry ride. The first impression is […]

Korea Blog: Selling Your Body to Seoul in Kim Ho-seon’s “Yeong-ja’s Heydays” (1975)

Watch enough Korean movies from the late 1950s through the 80s, and you start to notice what looks like an obsession with prostitution. Pictures from the end of that period — 1988’s Prostitution (매춘), for instance, which has spawned at least five sequels — tend to make it obvious. Earlier ones deal explicitly with prostitution as a […]