Book review: Yi Mun-yol — Our Twisted Hero

Yi Mun-yol: Our Twisted Hero Originally published 1987 Translated by Kevin O’Rourke Available on Kindle (Minumsa, 2012) or hard copy (Hyperion Books, 2001) Moving to the provinces from a school in Seoul in which the social hierarchy was one he had lived with all his life, our twelve-year-old hero Han Pyongt’ae is faced with a […]

SOAS public workshop: State Capitalism and Development in East Asia

A free all-day seminar sponsored by the Centre of Korean Studies at SOAS: State Capitalism and Development in East Asia Speakers Jeong Seongjin (Gyeongsang National University) Lee Jeong-koo (GNU) Gareth Dale (Brunel University) Jamie Allinson (University of Westminster) Owen Miller (SOAS, University of London) Tuesday, 6 November 2012, 10am-5pm Room B111, First Floor, Brunei Gallery, […]

2012 Travel Diary 9: Yun Isang — Victim of the Cold War

Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do, Monday 26 March 2012. For most big Korean cultural events there’s a glossy brochure with a welcome message from various officials and dignitaries. And for the most important events you might expect a welcome message from the Minister of Culture. It is a measure of the sensitivity of the Tongyeong International Music Festival’s […]

Mark Morris on Lee Man-hee and the flowering of Korean film in the 1960s

Everybody in Britain has heard of Samsung computers or Hyundai cars. However, another aspect of South Korea today is its successful export of films, music and TV dramas to neighbouring countries, known as ‘Korean Wave’ or ‘Hallyu’. In order to get a Western perspective on Korean cinema, I visited the Korean Cultural Centre in London […]

Book Review: Hwang Sok-yong – The Old Garden

Hwang Sok-yong: The Old Garden / The Ancient Garden Originally published in 2000 English translation by Jay Oh, Seven Stories Press 2009 / Picador 2010. “More has been expected of Hwang Sok-yong than almost any other Korean writer of the past quarter century,” says Bruce Fulton1. Having read The Guest (2002), and having watched and […]

1970s: the missing decade in Korean film?

Newcomers to Korean film can sometimes get the impression that Korean cinema started with Shiri. Indeed, one contributor to the recent Korean Film Blogathon claimed “Korea’s cinema was virtually non-existing until the new millennium”. Not a sentiment with which I strongly agree. While the last decade has certainly seen more than its fair share of […]

Kang Sok-kyong: The Valley Nearby

Kang Sok-kyong: The Valley Nearby Tr Choi Kyong-do Heinemann Asian Writers Series, 1997. Originally published as 가까운 골짜기, 1989 Living in the country, Yun-hee is engaged in a solitary struggle. Her two worlds, that of a rural housewife and that of an advocate for equality, are at odds with each other. As her artistic, alcoholic […]

Nineteen Years in South Korea’s Gulag

Suh Sung: Unbroken Spirits – Nineteen Years in South Korea’s Gulag Rowman & Littlefield, 2001 Original Japanese version, (Gokuchû 19 Nen, Nineteen Years in Prison) 1994 We are all familiar with stories reporting the horrors of torture and starvation in North Korean prison camps. What we can forget is that over the past decades South […]

Book review: The Dawn of Modern Korea

Andrei Lankov – The Dawn of Modern Korea EunHaeng NaMu publishing, 2008 This entertaining book has, paradoxically, taken me a devil of a long time to finish. That’s not because it’s difficult. It’s because it’s the opposite. The book is co-branded with a series of articles that Andrei Lankov has been writing for the Korea […]

Susie Younger: Never ending flower

Susie Younger: Never ending flower Collins Harvill, 1967 To describe this book as a memoir of a Catholic missionary in South Korea in the early 1960s, while factually correct, undersells it. Yes, the author is a person of deep Christian faith, but her work in Korea is more that of a social worker than evangelist. […]