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Category Archives: books

Korea Blog: the Techno-Mythological Imagination of Kim Bo-young’s I’m Waiting for You

South Korea has one of the first populations who can claim to have collectively traveled through time. In a trivial sense, of course, we all travel through time, forward at a rate of one hour per hour, one day per day, one year per year. But this country, as no introduction fails to mention, underwent […]

MIT Technology Review: Los Angeles, “a Humming, Smoking, Ever-Changing Contraption”

Los Angeles is vast and practically formless, a city so unlike any other that it can hardly be called a city at all. That, at least, is the impression the past few decades of writing on the Southern California metropolis has tended to offer. Hardened into received wisdom, this presumption is now repeated even by […]

Korea Blog: Youjeong Oh’s Pop City Reveals How K-Pop and K-Drama Have Transformed their Homeland

If you read the Korea Blog regularly, you more than likely have an interest in Korea. And though it’s far from guaranteed, you may well also be a Westerner of one kind or another. If both of these conditions hold true for you, then the odds say — albeit with plenty of room for exception […]

Times Literary Supplement: Matt Alt, “Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World”

After overseeing the postwar occupation of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur made a blunt assessment of the cultural and emotional state of the defeated people. “If the Anglo-Saxon was, say, 45 years of age in his development, in the sciences, the arts, divinity, culture, the Germans were quite as mature,” said the former Supreme Commander of […]

Korea Blog: Revisiting the Late Kevin O’Rourke’s “My Korea,” a Curious Memoir of a Land that Gets in the Blood

Western expatriates in Asia often see themselves as having missed out on their adopted homeland’s golden age. I arrived recently, just under five years ago, and have since heard much about how I really should’ve been here at the time of the World Cup, if not in the 1990s. Some time ago I met an […]

Books on Cities: Ben Wilson, “Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind’s Greatest Invention” (2020)

I wonder: have I ever described the city as “humankind’s greatest invention”? It’s not impossible, given the proclamation’s tempting combination of boldness and obviousness — which it would retain if applied to, say, language, another of my own interests. Reading Ben Wilson’s Metropolis: A History of Humankind’s Greatest Invention, I realized its subtitle sounded familiar because […]

Korea Blog: Frances Cha’s “If I Had Your Face,” The Great Korean Plastic Surgery Novel

When first learning Korean in Los Angeles, I went to a Koreatown bookstore in search of simple reading material. There I picked up the first volume in a long-running a series of illustrated books for children called Happy World (행복한 세상). Its short, fable-like stories turned out to be united only by what struck me as an […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: What Do They Know of English, Who Only English Know?

Until age 24 I lived, as many Americans do, without leaving my native continent. I first applied for a passport out of the humiliating need to go to no farther than Canada, whose entry process had recently become more stringent. But not long thereafter I went genuinely abroad, taking a 25th-birthday trip with my dad […]

Korea Blog: British Denmark Expat Michael Booth Takes the Measure of Korea in “Three Tigers, One Mountain”

Michael Booth’s Three Tigers, One Mountain isn’t a book about Korea, but in a sense it contains a book about Korea. Subtitled A Journey through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan, it takes on an entire region in the form of a travelogue driven by one question: “Why can’t the nations of east […]

Korea Blog: Introducing Kim Hoon, Korea’s Greatest Living Novelist Never Published in English

On a pedestal high above downtown Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square stands Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Generation after generation of Korean schoolchildren have studied the 16th-century naval commander’s unblemished record of victory against the invading Japanese, and four centuries after his death Yi remains the unrivaled symbol of a small, impoverished nation’s will to resist predation by the […]