Customer Reviews: Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture
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on July 14, 2009
For an English language resource, this is a gem of a book. Keeping in mind that Korea has a relatively short (but very interesting) pop culture, this book covers all the bases quite nicely. It features a variety of tidbits and little known facts sprinkled throughout the book.

I applaud the author for pioneering an English language legitimate published text - a fresh break from the bloggers who dominate this field of interest. The information is as up-to-date as a book can be (pub 2008) but a slight out-of-date-ness is to be expected for a text about the ever-changing pop culture. However, since the majority of the book covers the upstarts of each industry, the lack of 2009 material is easily forgiven (and unavoidable).

The author's writing style is both a pro and a con. The writer seems to be comfortable in his knowledge of the subject but sometimes has too much of a conversational tone - almost to a fault of sounding uneducated. However, I really don't want that to sound too harsh because I believe one of his strengths is his ability to both inform and also entertain. He's got a great sense of Western humor that appears amongst this Eastern pop culture history.

I was also disappointed by the lack of photos throughout the book. The beginning has plenty of color pictures to prepare for the in-depth look that's coming ahead but the book itself is lacking accompanying photos. It would have made the biographies of Lee Byung-Hun and Lee Soon-Man more easy to follow.

My biggest complaint is the lack of Korean text. How hard would it have been to include Hanguel in the chapters? All movies, songs, TV dramas, and actors have either transliterated or romanized names which is frustrating when searching for the original source material. The least that could have been done is to include the original Korean names in parenthesis. A careless oversight.

However, I do want to conclude with saying that the author knows his stuff and has written an excellent primer on all things Korean. His background history on the PIFF (Busan International Film Festival) is impressive as is his approach to Korean movies in general (and why there is so much more to the Korean wave than 1999's Shiri). All in all, this book is well worth your time.
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on September 30, 2015
Mark James Russell is an entertainment journalist who has been writing about Korean culture, economics and society since 1996. Over the course of two very well-researched books, the former Korea correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard has explored in great detail the development of Korea’s modern pop culture. Russell’s 2008 book “Pop Goes Korea” is an in-depth examination of the incredible, rapid developments that took place in pop culture during the 1990s and 2000s which achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time. Its influence was growing in the rest of the world as well. Russell addresses the social, personal, cultural, and political factors that enabled and gave rise to this development at the end of the twentieth century. With concisely insightful commentary and a witty, intelligent writing style, he focuses on seven emblematic Korean success stories. He looks at the fascinating rise of media conglomerate CJ Entertainment, the factors surrounding the production of “Shiri” – one of Korea’s most significant blockbusters, the birth and rise in stature of the Busan Film Festival, and even uses the career of heartthrob TV actor Lee Byung-hun as a way of discussing the prominence of Korean TV dramas in Asia. All of these stories are packed with intriguing, interesting details and insightful analysis that carefully situate them within their respective cultural and historical moments. In focusing on the business side of popular culture, Russell shows how a strong media and industry infrastructure is vital if creative artists are to flourish in their chosen mediums at home and abroad. He also highlights some issues inherent in Korean pop culture, suggesting that it is often too disposable in nature partly due to a lack of historical connection.
Russell’s 2014 book, “K-Pop Now,” zooms in on the wildly popular Korean music phenomenon. He takes great care to discuss the current role K-Pop plays in Korean youth culture and explores its background and origin as well as some interesting ties with different areas in Seoul: Hongdae, Samcheong, and Gangnam. This book is aimed more directly at fans as opposed to those looking for insightful analysis; it primarily consists of a series of brief profiles of many of the key acts, groups and solo artists pushing K-Pop forward today.
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on October 22, 2012
When I read the first edition of this book a couple of years ago, Korean pop was as fascinating as it was alien to me.

At the time I was wondering whether K-Pop had reached its peak, but as evidenced by its explosion this summer in the Western world, you can see this phenomenon is still growing strong.

There's no other book (in the English language at least) that explains what's going on, where these artists came from, and how Korea consistently produces such high quality media. A must-read for anyone in the music or film business, whether you're interested in Korean culture or not. Their impact is now global.

Kudos to the publisher for putting this out in electronic format. The book is even more relevant in 2012.
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on March 6, 2010
So you want to know about the phenomenal growth of the Korean film industry without getting your feet wet and actually watching any Korean films? Want to know how K Pop is taking over Asia - well teenage Asia anyway? Want to know how Super Junior can possibly work with 13 members? Want to hear how Sean Yang killed the music business and then resurrected it? This is the book for you. I don't know that I'l be listening to any more K Pop but I do think I'll try and watch a few more Korean films.
At times its repetitive, and could have done with stronger editing - its as though the author didn't expect anyone to read ALL the chapters so he keeps making the same points particularly about Korean history, filial piety etc /But a great introduction to Korean Pop culture. And whatever you think of The Korean Wave, it is remarkable that in 15 years Korea has changed from mainly consuming Western film and music to mainly consuming its own and exporting it. And it didn't do it through protection. A lesson their for us all
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on May 19, 2009
For someone like me, who knows that there are a lot of interesting movies made in Korea, but who also doesn't speak the language very well, this book is great -- it's a primer not just on which actor or director did what, but a lot of the history behind it. In fact, Mark Russell covers the whole entertainment spectrum -- from TV to movies to music to internet. What makes the book especially enjoyable is his style. Normally books about Korea are quite cheerleader-esque, perhaps echoing the country's more-than-occasional "with us or against us" stance. However, Russell is able to show his colors as a true fan without beating us to death, because in addition to platitudes he's also willing to criticize and point out ironies, which makes the book a richer read. And actually an even stronger endorsement of the modern Korean culture that so fascinates him. Completely entertaining even if you don't know Rain from Snow or Lee Byung-hyun from Lee Hyori. And really useful if you do.
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on March 17, 2013
South Korean pop culture is making a lot of noise these days, what with Gangnam Style and all and this book does a great job in explaining how it all started. television, music, movies, and even manhwa are covered in their own chapters.

It's written in a really approachable way so you don't neccessarily have to be a korean pop culture fan to enjoy it although a background in it definitley helps you appreciate it.

I particularly liked the part about the korean movie industry, it's hard to believe CJ Entertainment (the powerhouse that dominates the korean movie industry) was originally a sugar refinery!
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on December 2, 2013
This book examines the process of globalization as demonstrated in the rise of the South Korean entertainment industries, with many lessons that could apply to other developing economies. What makes the book easy and enjoyable to read is the structure -- several different categories of pop culture are studied through the lens of biographies of key figures. Included are the rise of the movie industry as chronicled through the rise of CJ Entertainment, and the fits and starts overcome by the founders of the Busan / Pusan International Film Festival. This book also traces the explosion of the TV drama through the career of Lee Byung-Hun, analyzing the difference in the appeal of K-drama to the Chinese and Japanese markets. The music industry is examined from several angles, including DJ/producer Lee Soo-man, singers Seo Taiji and Rain, plus the effect of internet piracy and digital file-sharing on the music industry through Sean Yang's creation of Soribada. Last but not least, this book makes interesting comparisons between the Korean manhwa market (largely independent and online comics) vs. the behemoth Japanese manga industry. Through a combination of talented individuals, far-sighted investors, lucky economic developments, and changes in governmental regulations, South Korea grew into a cultural and economic powerhouse in a shockingly brief period of time; and other developing nations could easily follow the same path to success.
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on May 19, 2015
As a 30-something Korean who grew up there at the time this book covers, I can attest for the quality of this book. It covers all the items that are worth covering on the (renaissance of) Korean pop-culture with deep and unbiased eyes. FYI, I found Euny Hong's articles sometimes incorrect.
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on April 18, 2012
A delightful insight into Korean Pop Culture - in depth figures for releases of Korean Movies that hit
box office highs - analysis of the new generation of film makers to make a dent both in Korea and global markets.
I am fascinated by the Korean dramas and their launch of non stop cute/melodic and probably over produced Boy Bands.
But what the heck I now know so much more about Korean culturally and this book assisted in filling in some gaps
of this Korean Wave phenomena. My god daughter is doing a research project on the Korean Wave so this was an
added bonus for her and naturally I had to buy a copy for myself after all I introduced her to it in the first place.Recommended for those who want to know how and why it started. Long may it continue.
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on October 27, 2014
You can read whole story of kpop.
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