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A Korean Odyssey: Island Hopping in Choppy Waters

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Publisher: , 2020.
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Michael Gibb embarks on an eccentric odyssey around the wind-swept islands off the coast of South Korea in search of life beyond K-pop, high-tech gadgetry and nuclear missile tests. With well over three thousand islands to choose from, there was no shortage of destinations, all connected by the indomitable ferries that ply these choppy waters. From the fog-bound isles within hailing distance of North Korea to the charms of the southern archipelagos and the rocky outcrops deep in the lonely East Sea, Gibb discovers a region of Asia unjustly ignored by travelers.

Gibb, a Korean speaker, encounters a cast of fascinating characters on his voyages: villagers who call these far-flung islands home, gnarled sea dogs crewing the ferries, gambling grannies, conscripts on desolate outposts, fishermen, rampaging tourist hordes, and poetry-loving taxi drivers. The journey packs in enough stories from maritime history, myths, culture, literature and politics to fill a ship’s cargo holds.

A former Seoul-based journalist and author of A Slow Walk Through Jeong-dong, a history of one of Seoul’s most intriguing neighborhoods, Gibb reveals a country that is both rapidly changing but firmly rooted in tradition and the past, one that’s often in the news but rarely understood.

“Michael Gibb’s wonderfully engaging new book gives voice to the neglected history and culture of the islands peppered around the shoreline of the Korean peninsula. No other author in English has written so well and so lyrically about Korea.”
—M.A. Aldrich, author of The Search for a Vanishing Beijing and Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass.