As there are only 3 weeks left, here are some thoughts for solving some of your gift dilemmas:
James Church’s second novel in the Inspector O series: Hidden Moon. The first one was a corker. The second one: a bank robbery in Pyongyang, in broad daylight, by men in silk stockings? A lively scenario for starters. And maybe the Inspector will get his cup of tea this time.
For film fans, try one of KOFIC’s Korean Film Directors series. Lee Chang Dong, Kim Ki Young and Im Kwon Taek are available at Yes Asia here (I’ve reviewed them here). The more recent one on Park Chan Wook is available from Seoul Selection here.
For Korean tiny tots, how about stimulating some Anglo-Korean cultural engagement with anything from the Thomas the Tank Engine series? The books have recently been translated into Korean and can be had from Kyobo’s online bookstore. Henry the Green Engine was always my favourite.
For the international tiny tots there’s the Pucca 2008 official annual on the way, though not in stock yet (at time of writing) at Amazon. Azalea is another, but more heavyweight, annual difficult to obtain from either US or UK Amazon stores. Better to try Seoul Selection. Azalea is an anthology that offers really good English translations of 8 short stories by such well-known contemporary Korean writers as Kim Young-ha, Park Min-gyu and Hwang Sun-won, and of poems by 11 poets including Ko Un, Kim Chiha,and Kim Seung-Hui, as well as 7 feature articles including one by Nobel-prize-winning Orhan Pamuk. Finally, there’s still time to buy the 2007 Korea Yearbook. Further details here.
Boost Korea Inc’s balance of payments. Buy Korea’s top-earning tv-drama: Jumong. You’ll need a lot of time to watch it, not a few dollars to buy it, and a few investigative skills to work out whether the only English subtitled box set available at YesAsia is in fact the whole series.
Admirers of Gong Yoo’s washboard stomach will be disappointed to know that there is no English subtitled version of Coffee Prince available yet (expected release in January 2008), though you can console yourself with the soundtrack, which features a couple of LKL’s favourite musicians: Adult Child, Casker and Tearliner.
For the kiddies, there’s Pororo the little Penguin. Strangely for an animation character specifically created for the export market, it doesn’t seem to be possible to buy English subtitled or dubbed versions of the TV programmes. But you can get an English-dubbed version of the feature-length Christmas Special Pororo to the Cookie Castle from Yes Asia here. (A brief post about it, following its screening in London last year, can be found here). For Korean kiddies you could try some of the Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs linked above.
For grown-ups, undoubtedly the finest film to come out of Korea this year was Secret Sunshine, available from YesAsia. My own thoughts on it are here. As a companion piece, buy the KOFIC book on director Lee Chang Dong mentioned above.
For someone exploring Korean traditional music, the kayagum music of Hwang Byungki is a perfect introduction – though of course these are modern compositions for the instrument. Available from Yes Asia.
For some interesting music which might appeal to those who want something different from run-of-the-mill K-pop and K-rock, try Jang Sa Ik, more like folk singing, with a fusion of jazz and Korean traditional instruments influencing the arrangements. Again, available from Yes Asia.
For novelty value, there’s the comeback album from JYP, the man who created Rain, and for those wanting a retrospective of Seo Taiji, the man who brought rap to Korea 15 years ago, hopefully the special anniversary collection due to be released on 29 November will be in stock at YesAsia soon. Get a flavour for his music at his MySpace page; there’s a recent KBS article here.
Ideas for your walls
Firstly, you can find posters of many of your favourite stars over at Yes Asia.
For those who need a spot of primitive colour on their walls, you could do worse than a hand-painted North Korean propaganda poster from La Galleria.
For something more sophisticated (and, of course, expensive) there’s a fine collection of watercolours and oils available on the same gallery. From the same collection that was exhibited at La Galleria earlier this year. For further details email koreanexhibition at lagalleria DOT org or Tel +44 (0) 207 930 7558.
Note: as many of you will have noticed, I am, in a very low-key way, in the affiliate programmes of both Amazon and YesAsia, neither of which have generated me any revenue yet. Buying by clicking on the above links will put a few pennies in my kitty which I will use to offset the cost of my rather too expensive hobby.
However, this post is not just a shameless attempt to raise a few pennies — it is a semi-serious set of recommendations. For example, I get no commission from either Seoul Selection, Kyobo bookstore or La Galleria. But if you contact La Galleria, do tell them where you heard about them.