m a r k a n d e y a

Archive for July, 2003

Want to Learn about Korea?

Posted by Brian on July 13, 2003

If you're interested in learning some more about Korea, I recommend the following books:

Korea Unmasked: In Search of the Country, the Society, and the People by Rhie Won-bok

Done in comic book-style by one of Korea's most famous cartoonists, this is a very accessible book that does one heck of a job of explaining how Korean people think and why they think that way. I've even spoke with Korean friends who found it illuminating.  It's a great book that should be read by anyone with an interest in Korea.

The Koreans by Michael Breen

A bit more academic in style, but still quite readable by most. The author has spent a lot of time in Korea and really knows what makes Koreans tick. 

Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-hwang 

I read this on my return flight to Seattle from Seoul back in April. According to the publisher, Kang is, "the first survivor of a North Korean concentration camp to escape the 'hermit kingdom' and tell his story to the world." As bleak and horrifying as it sounds, this book reveals just how depraved the Kim Jong-il regime really is (no doubt the South Korean government doesn't want you reading this book).

The Two Koreas by Dan Oberdofer

Oberdofer does a great job of covering Korea's last 30 years or so. I learned a lot about Park Chung-hee era and the history of NK-SK relations from this book.

Korean Dynasty: Hyundai and Chung Ju-yung by Donald Kirk

This book was not authorized by Chung and his family, meaning it gives you the dirt that Hyundai, and I imagine most big business in Korea, doesn't want to you to see. It's also helpful for gaining a better understanding of the relationship between Korean chaebol (conglomerates) and labor and government.

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Posted in Books, Korean Issues | Leave a Comment »

Want to learn more about Korea?

Posted by Brian on July 13, 2003

If you’re interested in learning some more about Korea, I recommend the following books:

Korea Unmasked: In Search of the Country, the Society, and the People by Rhie Won-bok

Done in comic book-style by one of Korea’s most famous cartoonists, this is a very accessible book that does one heck of a job of explaining how Korean people think and why they think that way. I’ve even spoke with Korean friends who found it illuminating. It’s a great book that should be read by anyone with an interest in Korea.

The Koreans by Michael Breen

A bit more academic in style, but still quite readable by most. The author has spent a lot of time in Korea and really knows what makes Koreans tick.

Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-hwang

I read this on my return flight to Seattle from Seoul back in April. According to the publisher, Kang is, “the first survivor of a North Korean concentration camp to escape the ‘hermit kingdom’ and tell his story to the world.” As bleak and horrifying as it sounds, this book reveals just how depraved the Kim Jong-il regime really is (no doubt the South Korean government doesn’t want you reading this book).

The Two Koreas by Dan Oberdofer

Oberdofer does a great job of covering Korea’s last 30 years or so. I learned a lot about Park Chung-hee era and the history of NK-SK relations from this book.

Korean Dynasty: Hyundai and Chung Ju-yung by Donald Kirk

This book was not authorized by Chung and his family, meaning it gives you the dirt that Hyundai, and I imagine most big business in Korea, doesn’t want to you to see. It’s also helpful for gaining a better understanding of the relationship between Korean chaebol (conglomerates) and labor and government.

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Pyeongchang/Muju Confrontation

Posted by Brian on July 11, 2003

Things are going to get very, very ugly between these two areas.

The issue? Pyeongchang just lost the 2010 Winter Games to Vancouver due to, according to them, anyway, active interference by Korean sports bigwig Kim Un-yong, who didn't want to see his chances of being elected IOC veep damaged by a successful Pyeongchang bid. They feel they were cheated, so they vowed to try again in 2014.

But… because of the bickering between the two areas a few years ago when the idea of hosting the winter games first came up (I think the original idea was some sort of joint-hosting agreement), they made a compromise: Pyeongchang can bid for the 2010 games, but if they lost, Muju gets first crack in 2014. The respective regional governors signed a memo agreeing to this deal.

So now, you got the two areas butting heads, with Pyeongchang claiming they were cheated and deserve another chance and Muju claiming a deal is a deal. And when Koreans disagree with each other, they go all out.

I think this is one of the things that intrigues non-Koreans who are knowledgeable about Korea. I'm talking about the regionalism and divisiveness that occurs between Koreans in Korea.

You see, when a non-Korean pisses off Koreans (Ohno is a great example here), Koreans will unite into a 45 million-strong street gang. It really is a sight to behold, so many people united and unwavering in their strong feelings for this one person or country. Any dissent from the official Korean "position" will result in that person being stigmatized from the Korean "body." This is why the only times you'll see bipartisan agreement in the Korean Assembly is when some anti-Japanese or anti-American issue is on the floor.

But despite the "we are one" facade that Koreans (proudly) show the world from time to time, they are a very splintered people. Regional antagonism is strong between the SE and SW areas, political parties come and go as alliances and loyalties change, and special interest groups (labor unions, civic groups, regional associations, etc.) are constantly making demands while refusing to compromise.

I find it all deeply ironic and to be one of those things that makes it difficult to say, "Koreans are…"

But back to the article…

I have one problem with it. This passage here:

"The internal strife and controversy over who is responsible for PyeongChang’s failure will only cause the national prestige to suffer a severe downgrading in the international community."

I hate to break it to you, Korea, but no one out there really cares about your "internal strife." The Seattle Times has yet to run an article on this post-bid meltdown, and I've yet to see any other websites or blogs even mention the matter. Koreans are obsessed with their image abroad and tend to think all their domestic dirty laundry makes them look bad throughout the world. The truth is, the foreign media doesn't pay much attention to such domestic bickering. They just don't think it's newsworthy.

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