Once upon a time, before there were blogs, there were zines. Like vinyl records, they were perhaps too cumbersome to really thrive in the digital age of instaconvenience, and yet for some, they remain a preferred choice, just as scientific research has proven conclusively that vinyl offers truer, superior sound to CDs or MP3 files. For a brief moment in the 1990s, the international zine scene came to the Korean Peninsula and burned most brightly, like an exploding supernova that leaves flashing, psychedelic retinal afterimages for years afterwards. The effects of that alien invasion were far-reaching and long-lasting, and are still being felt to this day, as the book you now hold in your hands verifiably attests. Indeed, Korea Bug is more than just a book – it is the record of a revolution.
J. Scott Burgeson has been described as Korea’s most successful zinester to date, and Korea Bug is a collection of the very best Korea-related material he has produced over the years for his zine Bug. This is neither uninformed, navel-gazing blogosphere chatter nor shallow, rah-rah propaganda for Korea, Inc., but rather rigorous cultural criticism with a bracing, adrenaline-charged punk spirit. Whether interviewing the last colonial-era gisaeng or courtesan in Seoul shortly before her death, or slipping stealthily onto Yongsan Garrison Army Base to debrief and American intelligence analyst for U.S. Forces Korea, Burgeson is a culture spy par excellence. From Russian hostesses to Busan to top-ranked shamans in Seoul to incredibly strange books about Korea written by honkies, Burgeson buzzes high and low in relentless pursuit of the real and the surreal, the ridiculous and the sublime, and, ultimately, the closest thing to the truth.
If you thought you knew what Korea was all about, Korea Bug is guaranteed to make you think again.