Non-fiction books

Too many books, not enough time to read them, or space to store them. Encouragingly, in a skim of the upcoming publication lists I had no problems finding plenty of books on a wide range of interesting topics. No longer it seems is the reading public (or the publishers’ perception thereof) solely interested in that part of the peninsula north of the DMZ. This is just a sample of the books coming up this year – the ones that leaped out as being of interest – and I probably filtered out too many. On this shortlist, I’m most looking forward to the books on North Korean literature on 1960s/70s films depicting the colonial era, and the monograph on an 8th century Buddhist monk.

Our look at upcoming literature and fiction titles can be found here.


The first item below is probably the one that’s going to end up on my bookshelf before all the others mentioned on this page.

Buddhist books 2018

  • Hyecho’s Journey: The World of Buddhism, by Donald Lopez Jr. (University of Chicago Press, 6 Feb 2018) “Simultaneously a rediscovery of a forgotten pilgrim, an accessible primer on Buddhist history and doctrine, and a gripping, beautifully illustrated account of travel in a world long lost” (Amazon link)
  • From the Mountains to the Cities: A History of Buddhist Propagation in Modern Korea, by Mark A. Nathan (University of Hawaii Press, July 2018). “Ambitious and meticulously researched, From the Mountains to the Cities will find a ready audience among researchers and scholars of Korean history and religion, modern Buddhist reform movements in Asia, and those interested in religious missions and proselytization more generally.” (Amazon link)
  • Architects of Buddhist Leisure: Socially Disengaged Buddhism in Asia’s Museums, Monuments, and Amusement Parks by Justin Thomas McDaniel (University of Hawaii Press, April 2018). “Provocative and theoretically innovative, Architects of Buddhist Leisure asks readers to question the very category of “religious” architecture. It challenges current methodological approaches in religious studies and speaks to a broad audience interested in modern art, architecture, religion, anthropology, and material culture.” (Amazon link)


Papers from a conference in sunny Florida, a weighty catalogue for an upcoming exhibition at the Met, and a focus on Korean photographers.
Arts books

  • Arts of Korea: Histories, Challenges, and Perspectives, ed Jason Steuber (University Press of Florida, April 2018) “A monumental addition to the understudied field of Korean art, this brilliantly illustrated volume assembles the perspectives of art historians, critics, curators, and museum directors from major universities and museums around the world to trace the varied and dynamic experiences of Korean art acquisitions over the past century.” (Amazon link)
  • Diamond Mountains – Travel and Nostalgia in Korean Art, by Soyoung Lee,‎ Ahn Daehoe,‎ Chin-sung Chang,‎ Lee Soomi (Yale University Press, February 2018) “This book examines the visual representation of this remarkable landscape from the 18th century to the present day. It explores how Jeong Seon (1676-1759) revolutionized Korean painting with his Diamond Mountains landscapes, replacing conventional generic imagery with specific detail and indelibly influencing generations of artists in his wake.” (Amazon link)
  • Contemporary Korean Photography, by Suejin Shin (Hatje Cantz, February 2018) “The 77 photographers selected in this project observe and interpret social and cultural changes in Korea from their own perspectives. Korea is expressed through portraits, cityscapes, records of daily life and digitally reconstructed works by, among others, Bien-U Bae, Sungsoo Koo, Soonchoel Byun and Sanghyun Lee.” (Amazon link)

History and society through the arts

History through the arts

Two books looking at colonial Korea through the lens of film and literature, and a wide ranging examination of “transgression” which includes discussion of “reports about flesh-eating humans, newspaper articles about same-sex relationships from colonial Korea, and films about extramarital affairs, wayward youths, and a vengeful vigilante.”

  • Parameters of Disavowal: Colonial Representation in South Korean Cinema, by Jinsoo An (University of California Press, February 2018) “An offers a fresh perspective on South Korean cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. He reveals filmmakers’ ongoing engagement with Japan and shows how representations of the colonial past were essential to the construction of South Korea’s postcolonial and Cold War identity” (Amazon link)
  • Reading Colonial Korea through Fiction: The Ventriloquists, by Kim Chul (Lexington Books, March 2018) “A compilation of thirteen original essays which was first serialized in a quarterly issued by the National Institute of Korean Language, Saekukŏsaenghwal (Living our National Language Anew) in a column entitled, ‘Our Fiction, Our Language’ between 2004 to 2007″ (Amazon link)
  • Transgression in Korea: Beyond Resistance and Control, by Juhn Young Ahn (University of Michigan Press, February 2018) “Bringing together specialists from various disciplines such as history, art history, anthropology, premodern literature, religion, and film studies, the context-sensitive readings of transgression provided in this book suggest that transgression and authority can be seen as forming something other than an antagonistic relationship.” (Amazon link)

North Korea

Having really enjoyed Sonia Ryang’s Reading North Korea (Harvard University Asia Center, May 2012) I’m looking forward to Immanuel Kim’s Rewriting Revolution, which looks at a similar subject area but from a different angle.

DPRK books

  • Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction, by Immanuel Kim (University of Hawai’i Press, April 2018) “Immanuel Kim’s book confronts … stereotypes, offering a more complex portrayal of literature in the North based on writings from the 1960s to the present.” (Amazon link)
  • North Korean Graphic Novels, by Martin Petersen (Routledge, November 2018) “This book provides an analysis of North Korean graphic novels, discussing the ideals they promote and the tensions within those ideals, and examining the reception of graphic novels in North and South Korea and beyond.” (Amazon link)
  • Ask A North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation, by Daniel Tudor (Tuttle Publishing, March 2018) “The weekly column Ask a North Korean, published by NK News, invites readers from around the world to pose questions to North Korean defectors.” (Amazon link)
  • See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey Into Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, by Travis Jeppesen (Hachette Books, July 2018). “Anchored by the experience of his five trips to North Korea, Jeppesen weaves in his observations and interactions with citizens from all walks of life, constructing a narrative rich in psychological detail, revealing how the North Korean system actually functions and perpetuates itself in the day-to-day, beyond the propaganda-fueled ideology.” (Amazon link)

Modern and contemporary history

History books

King of Spies has already received Andrew Salmon’s welcome in Asia Times. DJ’s autobiography looks like it should be an interesting read for those who have already read Donald Kirk’s more focused book (Amazon link). But clocking in at 969 pages, its length will deter most readers.

  • Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom, by Stephen Gowans (Baraka Books, June 2018) “An account of modern Korean history, written from the point of view of those who fought to free Korea from the domination of foreign empires. It traces the history of Korea’s struggle for freedom from opposition to Japanese colonialism starting in 1905 to North Korea’s current efforts to deter the threat of invasion by the United States or anybody else by having nuclear weapons. (Amazon link)
  • King of Spies, by Blaine Harden (Mantle, March 2018) “Looks to answer the question of how an uneducated, non-trained, non-experienced man could end up as the number-one US spymaster in South Korea and why his US commanders let him get away with it for so long” (Amazon link)
  • From Miracle to Mirage: The Making and Unmaking of the Korean Middle Class, 1960-2015, by Myungji Yang (Cornell University Press, March 2018) “Capturing the emergence, reproduction, and fragmentation of the Korean middle class, From Miracle to Mirage traces the historical process through which the seemingly successful state project of building a middle-class society resulted in a mirage.” (Amazon link)
  • Conscience in Action: The Autobiography of Kim Dae-jung, tr Jeon Seung-hee (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018) “Written in the five years between the end of his presidency and his death in 2009, this book offers a poignant first-hand account of Korea’s turbulent modern history” (Amazon link)
  • Cultural Policy in South Korea: Making a New Patron State, by Hye-Kyung Lee (Routledge, October 2018) “This book traces the development of cultural policy in South Korea, highlighting this strong connection to wider government policy.” (Amazon link)

Geography, landscape, urbanism

Geography books
P’ungsu is the focus of one tempting publication, and is also featured as element in ‘Difficult Heritage’ in Nation Building.

  • P’ungsu: A Study of Geomancy in Korea, by Hong-key Yoon (SUNY Press, December 2017) “While almost all books in English about geomancy are addressed to general readers as practical guides for divining auspicious locations, P’ungsu is a work of rigorous scholarship that documents, analyzes, and explains past and current practices of geomancy. Its readers will better understand the impact of geomancy on the Korean cultural landscape and appreciate the significant ecological principles embedded in the geomantic traditions of Korea” (Amazon link)
  • ‘Difficult Heritage’ in Nation Building: South Korea and Post-conflict Japanese Colonial Occupation Architecture, by Hyun Kyung Lee (Palgrave Macmillan, July 2018) “This book explores South Korean responses to the architecture of the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea and the ways that architecture illustrates the relationship between difficult heritage and the formation of national identity.” (Amazon link)
  • Seoul: Memory, Reinvention, and the Korean Wave, by Ross King (University of Hawai’i Press, February 2018) “Ross King interrogates [Seoul’s] contested history and its physical remnants, tacking between the city’s historiography and architecture, with attention to monuments, streets, and other urban spaces. The book’s structuring device is the dichotomy of erasure and memory as necessary preconditions for reinvention.” (Amazon link)
  • Pine Trees In Korea: Aesthetics and Symbolism, by Suh Jae-Sik (Hollym, February 2018) (Amazon link)

Travel, Hallyu

Kpop live

Monocle extends its series of Travel guides to cover Seoul, and we are faced with an impending flood of competing studies on the music industry:

  • Seoul: The Monocle Travel Guide (Die Gestalten Verlag, April 2018) “The definitive travel guides that make you feel like a local wherever you go.” (Amazon link)
  • K-pop Live: Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance, by Suk-Young Kim (Stanford University Press, August 2018) “Based on in-depth interviews with K-pop industry personnel, media experts, critics, and fans, as well as archival research, K-pop Live explores how the industry has managed the tough sell of live music in a marketplace in which virtually everything is available online.” (Amazon link)
  • Korea’s Pop Music Industry, by Joseph Hyosup Kim, Seung-Ho Kwon,‎ Chung-Sok Suh (Routledge, June 2018) “This book presents a study of the industry as a business. It charts the development of the industry, examines changing levels of government support, and discusses the different firms in the industry and their competitive positions.” (Amazon link)
  • K-pop and Korean Popular Culture, by Sun Jung (Ashgate / Routledge, February 2018) “Within three primary areas of critical consideration: transnationalism, capitalism and digitization, Jung provides fascinating insight into the production and consumption of K-pop.” (Amazon link)
  • Asian Pop Music in Cosmopolitan Europe: K-Pop Fandom in the Age of Globalization, by Haekyung Um (Routledge, December 2017) “This book explores in detail how the extraordinary global success of Korean pop music – K-Pop – has been received in Europe.” (Amazon link)

Let me know what major publications I’ve missed.

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