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Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles Hardcover – February, 1988

3.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Winchester, English author and resident of Hong Kong, traveled through the Republic of Korea on foot to write this informal portrait. Along the way he befriended a variety of honeymooners, abalone divers, corporate executives, Buddhist nuns, American servicemen, etc., who helped to shape his impressions. The result is an engaging, informed, and often humorous distillation of the writer's observations on the culture, people, language, economy, and politics of this rapidly changing country. Despite occasional factual errors, Winchester's "walk" provides a treasury of interesting and usually informed insights. And the book should be on a "highly recommended" list for visitors to Korea. John H. Boyle, California State Univ., Chico
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006 Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall Trade; 1 edition (February 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0135166268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0135166260
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,053,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. Simon Winchester's many books include The Professor and the Madman ; The Map that Changed the World ; Krakatoa; and A Crack in the Edge of the World. Each of these have both been New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. Mr. Winchester was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HM The Queen in 2006. He lives in Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I picked up this book hoping to get some insight into Korean life, culture, and customs. The subtitle--"A Walk Through the Land of Miracles" was also very appealing. However, Winchester should have subtitled this book--"Why I Hate Korea". His condescending attitude drips off of every word.

The first problem with this book is that for a book that is supposed to be about Korea, he spends an awful lot of time with foreigners in Korea. In fact, you'll learn more about Irish missionaries and American soldiers than you will about Koreans. I would say that about 50 percent of the people he encounters in this book are not Korean. To make matters worse, the Koreans he does encounter are a weird lot (probably due to the fact that he is hanging around American bases rather than where descent family people would go). Of the Koreans he encounters, nearly half of them are prostitutes. From Winchester's account, you might believe that Korea is crawling with prostitutes. This is surprising due to the fact that Korea is a quite conservative country. My only guess is that Mr. Winchester went out of his way looking for prostitutes. So, instead of the land of miracles promised in the subtitle, you get the land of seedy red light districts.

As if this weren't bad enough, Mr. Winchester has a very sexist attitude. Of the Korean women he met that weren't prostitutes, he always adds the adjective pretty or attractive, as if he were sizing up every woman he met for a romantic encounter. In fact, he tells us that many of them threw themselves upon him. Well, good for him, but I don't want to waste my time on reading about it. None of the Koreans he mentions seem to have any personality (as described by Winchester). There's no sense that he is meeting actual people.
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Format: Hardcover
Before reading this book, my understanding of Korea was as hazy as a foggy day in Seoul. Korea? Didn't they host the Olympics a few years back? And I think there was a messy war in the fifties that led to partition; the South became prosperous; the North became weird. Oh, and don't they eat dogs? Well, now the fog has cleared, and it's all thanks to Simon Winchester's absorbing and entertaining journey through this fascinating land. And yes, there are some references to canine cuisine, but more of that later.

The basis of the book is the author's decision to follow in the footsteps of a group of Dutch sailors who were shipwrecked off the Korean coast in 1633. And I really do mean in their footsteps: he walks all the way from the southern coast to the edge of the North Korean border (he would have gone further, but the American border guards threatened to break his legs). He describes the places and people along the way, but digresses to explain Korean history, culture, politics and language in a way that's far removed from the dusty old history book.

His journey begins on Cheju Island, off the southern coast, where thousands of Koreans go for their holidays. It's here that he meets Father Patrick McGlinchey (one of the McGlincheys of Cheju, presumably), who explains how a group of Irish missionaries raise sheep and knit Aran sweaters, which I think is an inventive way of converting folk to Christianity. They've been here since the 1950s and feel quite at home - apparently, if you screw up your eyes until they're almost closed, Cheju looks just like Connemara

Reaching the mainland, the author continues his trek, and finds drivers and bus passengers waving, smiling at him, offering him lifts, food and cans of fruit juice, just like they would in Glasgow.
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1 Comment 54 of 70 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This book details the author's walking tour in South Korea in the late 80's. Though tidbits of interesting historical and cultural facts are included, they were written in a disorganized and anecdotal manner. Occasionally careless statements about the Koreans and Asians were made, clearly with exaggeration or overgeneralization.

Though the author said he loved Korea, what stands out page after page is the superiority complex he displayed for the land and the people. He mocked their age-old customs and current undertakings and gave proud accounts of his own bad behavior during his travel. The air of arrogance and condescension exudes from every single line. I am not a Korean, but even I am offended. The author obviously fails to understand that not everybody regards Kendal Mint Cake the best thing since sliced bread.
1 Comment 45 of 59 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This book is a bit rambling at times but, since Winchester's travelled through Korea on foot, perhaps that was somehow apt. I have seen several negative criticisms of what Winchester has to say and how he says it; too condescending, too sexist, too disorganized... too, whatever. Possibly these charges have some merit but it should be borne in mind that a score of people can visit the same place at the same time and will come away with a score of different impressions. Winchester has not especially held himself out to be offering an in-depth, comprehensive objective analysis of a nature and culture. Rather, he took a trip to see somewhere that interested him and he wrote about what he saw and what he thought about the things he saw. Certainly, his observations are colored by his own biases and expectations but I read the book making allowance for that and simply enjoyed getting a glimpse into a land and people about which I heretofore knew almost nothing. This book was an interesting read. I got what I paid for.
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