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Category Archives: Korea Blog

Korea Blog: Bong Joon-ho’s Biggest Victory, Accepting His Oscars in Korean

When we cinephiles of a certain age remember our discovery of film, we remember browsing video-store shelves in search of interesting movies to rent. But explaining the facts of that era in the face of disbelief from the young — You mean you couldn’t watch a movie someone else was watching? You had to pay […]

Korea Blog: The American Dream Dies in Los Angeles in Bae Chang-Ho’s “Deep Blue Night”

Speeding through the desert in a convertible, blasting “Highway Star” on the radio: as much appeal as that fantasy has held for Americans, it’s held even more for non-Americans. Such a scene opens Deep Blue Night (깊고 푸른 밤), a Korean film shot entirely in the US and intensely, even grimly concerned with the broader notion of […]

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 […]

Korea Blog: Pengsoo, the Genderless, Shameless Giant-Penguin Antihero Winning Korean Hearts and Minds

If you watched even a few clips of televised celebrations from countries around the world this past New Year’s Eve, you almost certainly saw South Korea’s. Each year at the stroke of midnight, a group of notables together commence the traditional ringing of Bosingak, the large bell in downtown Seoul used to announce the opening […]

Korea Blog: The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Ambitious Review of 120 Years in Korea, The Square

Every visitor to Seoul sees Gwanghwamun Square, stretching as it does between two major tourist attractions: at its north end Gyeongbokgung, the palace that comes in near the top of every list of the city’s must-see destinations, and at its south end Cheonggyecheon, the former freeway overpass admired by urbanists the world over since its 2005 […]

Korea Blog: The Bitter Korean Neorealism of Yu Hyun-Mok’s “Aimless Bullet”

South Korean films, as even casual foreign viewers come to believe, are meant to critique South Korean society. To the extent that this precept holds true, the country’s most acclaimed films bring its society in for the severest treatment: take Lee Chang-dong’s Burning (버닝), to name a recent example, or Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (기생충), to name a more recent […]

Korea Blog: Notes on the Camp of the Pyongyang Pub, Where Seoulites Eat and Drink Like It’s North of the 38th Parallel

North Koreans aren’t especially hard to come by in Seoul. Here and there around the city I’ve had the chance to attend a few talks given by defectors from the other side of the border, the most recent of which happened as part of the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. That day’s North Korean […]

Korea Blog: An American in Taiwan — with a Korean Tour Group

South Koreans couldn’t go freely abroad until 1989, at which point the repressed desire to do to so turned into potent fuel for a still-blazing travel industry. This industry has a media side, producer of books and television shows in a quantity and variety surprising to even the most travel-minded foreigners. It also has a […]

Korea Blog: Learning Korean with Duolingo, the Mercilessly Addictive Language App

Over the past few weeks I’ve plunged into addiction: an addiction to Duolingo, the language-learning app that has claimed more than a few formerly normal lives since it launched for the public seven years ago. Or perhaps the word “normal” is excessive, given that the population most susceptible to Duolingo addiction distinguishes itself precisely by a […]

Korea Blog: Old Man Gobau, the Unflappable Comic-Strip Star Who Witnessed South Korean History

Start asking Korean high-school students what career they want, and — assuming they’re giving the honest answers rather than the prestige answers — it won’t be long before someone says they want to be a comic artist. Or rather, they’ll probably say “webtoon” artist, that being the term of art for the form of comics […]