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Category Archives: Korea Blog

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 […]

Korea Blog: Reading Albert Camus’s “The Plague” in the Time of the Coronavirus

Nearly every day of the past few weeks, all the mobile phones in Seoul have gone off at the same time: some days once, some twice, some more than that. The cause is Korea’s emergency alert system, which in the years I’ve lived here has warned of flood risks, heat waves, and exceptional densities of air […]

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 […]