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Korea Blog: Philosophy, Dystopia, Fountain Pens, and Other Preoccupations of a Twentysomething Korean Book Vlogging Star

Sometimes, flipping channels at night here in Korea, I run across a show about Youtubers. Each episode features three different creators of online video content (or kontencheu, as it’s commonly rendered in Konglish) and documents each of them making a representative episode of their series. The host comments on the footage together with the vloggers, asking questions and making the occasional joke to complement the barrage of onscreen text and graphics that characterizes the modern TV aesthetic here. Some of the guests do cooking shows, some do comedy shows, and some go in more idiosyncratic directions. (The 29-year-old pharmacist who painstakingly recreates K-pop music videos, entirely by himself in his small room down in Daegu, comes to mind.)

Seeing this show reminds me how much television Korea makes — I haven’t watched even 10 percent of the channels in my cable package — as well as how much internet video it makes. When the world hears about Koreans broadcasting themselves, it usually hears about things like meokbang (먹방), those live streams of young people eating large quantities of food that made Westerners scratch their heads a couple years ago. But the society of screens cannot live by ingestion alone, and Korean vlogging has grown capacious enough to accommodate more esoteric pursuits, up to and including the reading books. America has its book vloggers as well, of course, but none of them seem to have reached quite the proportional level of fame quite as quickly as, say, Kim Kyeoul (a name she translates as Winter Kim, which doesn’t exude the same hippie-parents vibe in Korea as it would in America), creator and host of the Youtube channel Winter Bookstore.

Kim has put up more than 120 episodes since she started Winter Bookstore at the beginning of last year, most of them shot in front of her filled-to-capacity bookshelves, all of them dealing with one subject or another related to books. She leads tours of those bookshelves, she gives reading recommendations, she describes her own reading methods (not neglecting such details as her preferred style of marginalia-making and which brand of coffee-cup warmer she uses), she compares translations of foreign books and electronic reading devices, she reads sections of books out loud (including my personal favorite Los Angeles novel, Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man), she goes to publishers’ sales up in Paju Book City. Occasionally an episode crosses over with another cultural vlogger’s series, as when she gets together with a movie specialist to compare and contrast Stephen King’s The Shining with Stanley Kubrick’s version, or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with Blade Runner.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angles Review of Books.