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Category Archives: Korea Blog

Korea Blog: Michael Gibb’s Island-Hopping Travelogue “A Korean Odyssey”

Modern South Korea made its orchestrated debut on the world stage with the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Since that time, the most memorable English-language travel narratives about this country have been written by Englishmen. Simon Winchester’s Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles, which came out the year of the Games, seems to remain the best-known, though […]

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 […]

Korea Blog: The Cinematic-Romantic Collaboration of Hong Sangsoo and Kim Min-Hee Evolves in “The Woman Who Ran”

If at all possible, do try to see The Woman Who Ran (도망친 여자), the new picture by Korean auteur and international film-festival habitué Hong Sangsoo, at Seoul’s Emu Cinema. I recommend that particular venue in part because it offers occasional English-subtitled screenings for non-Korean-speakers, but more so because it appears as a major location in the […]

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 […]

Korea Blog: No Sex Please, This Is the Korea of Jang Sun-woo’s The Road to the Race Track (1991)

Since the liberalization of international travel in 1989, Koreans abroad have become a more than occasional subject of Korean cinema. My own favorite example remains Hong Sangsoo’s Night and Day (밤과 낮), from 2008, about a boorish artist in Parisian exile from a drug charge. But then, Hong’s films — modestly budgeted, dialogue-heavy, and improvisatory in construction, celebrated at […]

Korea Blog: The First Comprehensive Introduction to “K-Lit” Past and Present, Youngmin Kwon and Bruce Fulton’s “What Is Korean Literature?”

Where to start with Korean literature? That question can frustrate Western enthusiasts of modern Korean popular culture — music, television, film — who want to go deeper. When I began seriously watching Korean movies, I realized many of them were adaptations of novels or stories, but soon learned that reading those novels and stories myself […]

Korea Blog: “Train to Busan,” “Peninsula,” “#Alive,” and the Korean Zombie Apocalypse

I write these words on the KTX, South Korea’s high-speed train. Though not as iconic as Japan’s Shinkansen, it certainly does the job more efficiently, and for the passenger more comfortably, than any rail service I remember back in the United States. Even those who’ve never been to Korea may be familiar with the look […]

Korea Blog: Rediscovering Korean Cinema, An Academic Look at the Zombies, Mutants, Criminals, and Prostitutes of South Korea’s Silver Screen

I live in Korea now in large part because I discovered Korean cinema in college — or rather, because I discovered Korean cinema right after graduating college. Though an avid film-viewer since I was a teenager, I somehow passed all four years at my university without partaking of the DVD selection at its library. Whatever […]

Korea Blog: “Samsung Rising,” from Nation-Builder to (Would-Be) Apple-Killer

“Are you ever uncomfortable as a foreigner in Korea?” I’ve heard that question, and countless variations on that question, from Koreans and other foreigners alike. The answer is no, in that I don’t feel afflicted by any excessive hassle (at least of the non-administrative variety) as a result of my outsider status. The most frustrating […]

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 […]