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Category Archives: Korea Blog

Korea Blog: Why K-Pop Is the Same as Classic Rock

Pet Sounds passed the 50th anniversary of its release about half a year after I moved to Korea. That same day, I later learned, also marked the 50th anniversary of Blonde on Blonde; this year brought that of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Despite never having owned any of these iconic albums myself, I know them when […]

Korea Blog: “Detroit”‘s American Riot and “A Taxi Driver”‘s Korean Massacre

Earlier this month, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit opened in theaters across America, dramatizing an increasingly oft-referenced eruption of violence in relatively recent American history. At just about the same time, Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver (택시운전사) opened in theaters across South Korea, dramatizing an increasingly oft-referenced eruption of violence in relatively recent Korean history. The tagline of the American film’s […]

Korea Blog: How Netflix’s Groundbreaking “Okja” Shows What Translates and What Doesn’t

On the day we caught Okja, the latest, Netflix-produced film by superstar Korean director Bong Joon-ho, my girlfriend and I went to a tonkatsu place we’d been meaning to return to — deliberately eating before the screening, not after. Everything we knew about the movie, posters for which went up in our neighborhood in Seoul […]

Korea Blog: Why do Koreans Love Herman Hesse’s Demian Above All Other Western Novels?

Not long before moving from Los Angeles to Seoul, I went book-shopping with my Korean language exchange partner at The Last Bookstore downtown. Browsing the semi-organized upstairs stacks (often literal stacks, at least at that time), we came across a cache of Korean paperbacks from the 1990s. As I tried to find a book there […]

Korea Blog: “Western Avenue”, Korean Cinema’s Response to the Los Angeles Riots

The Korean name of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sa-i-gu (사이구), means “four, two, nine” — or rather 4/29, the first of the six days they tore through streets after the the Rodney King verdict came out. Given Los Angeles’ large Korean population, the highest of any city outside the Korean Peninsula itself, and the […]

Korea Blog: The March of Fools, a College Comedy Darkened by Dictatorship

Mixers, sports matches, drinking contests, brushes with the law, anxiety about the future — Western audiences have come to expect all these elements from college comedies over the past half-century, and they’ll recognize them all in The March of Fools (바보들의 행진), a movie that belongs to essentially the same tradition. But it renders its college-comedy […]

Korea Blog: Eating Korea, a Search for the Culinary Soul of an Ever-Changing Country

Koreans I meet for the first time tend to draw all their questions from the same well. What they ask starts out basic — why I came to Korea, what kind of work I do, how did I become interested in Korea in the first place — and then gets more culturally revealing. Having asked […]

Korea Blog: Will Korea’s Most Famous Monk and His Tweets of Zen Wisdom Play in America?

“Penguin’s English translation of The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down comes out in America on February 7th,” tweeted South Korea’s most famous monk, in Korean, at the beginning of this year. “At about the same time, it’s scheduled to come out in fifteen other Western countries like England, Spain, Brazil, Russia, […]

Korea Blog: When Chris Marker Freely Photographed, and Briefly Fell in Love with, North Korea

Even though I live there, I still only with difficulty perceive Northeast Asia through any lens not borrowed from Chris Marker. This owes mostly to the influence of dozens of viewings of Sans Soleil, his 1983 fact-and-fiction cinematic travelogue through places like Iceland, Cape Verde, San Francisco, and especially Japan, a feature-length realization of the […]

Korea Blog: Haruki Murakami Has More Books in Korean than He Ever Will in English

Whenever someone has made progress studying a foreign language and asks which author they should try reading in that language, I always recommend the same one: Haruki Murakami. Though perhaps an obvious choice for students of Japanese, his mother tongue and the language in which he writes, his work has now made it into about […]