- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Hardcover with Jacket edition (November 10, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804842523
- ISBN-13: 978-0804842525
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 118 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Korea: The Impossible Country: South Korea's Amazing Rise from the Ashes: The Inside Story of an Economic, Political and Cultural Phenomenon Hardcover – November 10, 2012
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"Mr. Tudor pushes into new social and economic territory with his book, including the rising role of immigrants, multicultural families and even gay people in South Korea. He lays out some of the contradictory behavior one finds in South Korea, such as the unending desire for new and trendy gadgets and fashion and yet the tunnel-like view of what constitutes a successful life." —Wall Street Journal
"With a new generation every five years, it's hard to keep up with Korea. This book is long overdue, but Daniel Tudor has done a magnificent job filling the gap. Not only has he captured the new Korea, but he does so in an effortless style that leaves the reader wanting more." —Michael Breen, author of The Koreans
"Daniel Tudor covers all the important issues, yet does not simply tell the more familiar stories but looks deeper and wider to give the full story of Korea today." —Martin Uden, Former British Ambassador to South Korea
"Recommended for expats and any readers who are keen to learn more about Asian cultures, Korea: The Impossible Country is a well–researched and authoritative window into a country and its people." —The Expat Magazine
"Tudor, Seoul correspondent for The Economist, provides a fairly perfunctory account of the 'miracle on the Han River,' which saw South Korea transformed from postwar ruin to prosperous democracy within four decades. The book's real value comes in its exploration of the cultural forces behind the country's zeal for self-improvement." —Financial Times
"Written with affection and deep knowledge, Daniel Tudor's book fills a huge gap in our understanding of one of Asia's least known countries. His engaging narrative overturns the stereotypes by depicting a society which, though full of stresses, strains and contradictions, has overcome poverty and dictatorship to become a prosperous democracy. South Korea's transformation into a vibrant, modern state is, as he says, a story that deserves to be better known. Tudor has done the "impossible country" a service by opening its secrets to the world." —David Pilling, Asia Editor, Financial Times
"Sixty years ago, South Korea was an economic wasteland. Today, it is not only the world's 11th largest economy but also a vibrant democracy and an emerging cultural force. This transformation is the subject of a new book, Korea: The Impossible Country, by Daniel Tudor, Korea correspondent for the Economist.'" —Time Magazine
"Tudor's Korea: The Impossible Country is a fascinating overview of daily life in Korea. Tudor's in-depth analysis is the one of an insider who has never lost sight of the view from the outside. His book helps you feel comfortable right from your first visit to Korea." —David Syz, Swiss Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
About the Author
Daniel Tudor has lived in Seoul for many years and served as Korea Correspondent for The Economist from 2010û2013. His book, North Korea Confidential (with James Pearson), was selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2015. He holds degrees from Oxford University and Manchester University in England and has worked in finance in both Korea and Switzerland.
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This book could have been a Wikipedia sort of book or a travel guide sort of book but it succeeds at being none of that but being informative and a good companion from travelling. The book touches on the eternal and the mundane in five fascinating sections:
1- Foundations: We are presented with a brief analysis of the most influential religions in Korea (Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism) and the specific forms that Capitalism and Democracy take in that country.
2- Cultural Codes: We immerse ourselves into those beliefs, ways of being and attitudes that make Koreans who they are: Jeong, Chemyon, Han, Heung, competition, family and neophilia.
3- Cold Reality, focuses on those aspects of life that make the functioning of society possible but aren't as thrilling as others: politics, business, work, marriage, studying and being fluent in English.
4- In the hours not spent working: eating, drinking, music, cinema, and the living space are the subject of this section.
5- More of Us and Less of them, analyses Korean attitudes towards foreigners, gays, women, and the many faces of Korean nationalism.
The book is preceded by short historical introduction. Nothing boring, it is short and sweet, very informative and a good introduction to the History of Korea. Plenty of historical details are also found in each chapter when a historical background is needed.The epilogue is a brief summary of what Tudor discusses throughout the book, that is, what makes Koreans a remarkable nation and the challenges that Korea has and needs to face in the changing world we live in.
Tudor is basically an economist and there are plenty of statistics and business and economical references in the book. However, they add to the overall believability of the book.
I love that one can read the chapters individually if one wants, as they are complete in themselves, making the book very versatile and practical.
I didn't find any typo in the book, something really cool.
>>> Two of the main absentees in the book are Korea's working classes and rural dwellers, who are barely mentioned. Korea is a very urban country. I get that, but I would have liked having a bit of more background on rural areas and rural culture and see how they differ from the urban Korea or not. On the other hand, the working class is barely mentioned, and I would have liked to know more about them as well. Are their interests, struggles and obsessions the same as those people who would send their kids to an American University and have plastic surgery to look better in their resumé?
>>> There is a total absence of Korean literature, theatre and visual arts regarding painting, sculpture and experimental visual arts and artists in section 4. Korea has a vibrant literary scene, a scene where women are dominating and are well-respected. Any visual artists that is not part of the film industry...?
>>> One of the chapters I was looking forward to read was that on Korean food. One can find a list of typical Korean dishes anywhere, so I expected this chapter to go beyond that and offer a bit of depth about Korean culinary culture. Tudor does so superficially. Some of the questions that interest me and aren't mentioned are: Which hours do they eat in the day? Is their main meal in the morning, midday or evening? Is there a foodie culture in Korea as we have it in Western countries? Is eating out expensive? Do Korean have a strong street food culture as other Asian countries? Does everybody cook at home these days or is still a women's task? Which differences do you see in food eating according to social classes in Korea? Is there a "vernacular" tea culture in Korea? Do they love programs like MasterChef? Which foreign foods do they love the most? I think Tudor knows all of this and more, so I would love have loved that sort of information commented on, even if lightly. Perhaps in the new edition of the book?
Some of the things Tudor says about Korean can be seen also in Western Europe, USA and Australia, so I wonder whether those are specifically Korean, and in which ways they are specifically Korean.For example:
> Yummy mummies who don't work using their children's achievements to push their own egos and, therefore, push their kids unnecessarily for their own sake are everywhere.
> The obsession with technology. Yes, sure, Korean moves faster than other countries in the world of gadgets, but you find similar obsessions with gadgets and technology in many Western countries. there are many people camping outside their local Apple store before the launch of a new gadget or new version of a gadget to get it.
> Gay actors who keep in the closet not to destroy their careers. Certainly, gay people have a brighter life in the Western World (Western Europe especially) but, where I live, there are constant items of news on TV about people being abused, bullied or marginalised because they are gay. The Australian ex-swimmer Ian Thorpe, had depression, publicly denied being guy, wrote a biography in which he denied it, and when he came out of the closet said that he had kept it secret out of fear because he didn't know if his country would accept him. Also in Australia, a pop singer Anthony Callea kept his gay self hidden for work career purposes, he said, as most of his fans were female teens. Of course, nobody is making life difficult for them, but people who aren't famous have a more difficult day to day.
> The problem of the ageing population and low birth rates. I cannot but agree with what Tudor says, but this is not a typically Korean problem, as it affects most countries of Western Europe, Spain and Italy with one the lowest birth rates in the world and the population ageing at the speed of ageing :).
I notice the editing when the editing is not as good as it should be. I don't mean editing as in correcting typos and odd grammar sentences, I mean editing as the proper job of editing a book by professional editors.
> Tudor repeats himself quite often, things are said over and over again in different chapters, sometimes in the same chapter, and it is not always necessary. Just one example, the per capita earnings of Koreans in the post-war era.
> At times the book reads like a blog, others like a newspaper article, and others as a proper book. That is distracting to me and not good for any book.
> The "Special Feature: Interview with Choi Min-sik" feels like a cut-&-paste from a blog or article added here. I don't know if that is the case, but it reads as a pastiche. The question that matters here is, is this interview really relevant to know the film culture of Korea and necessary to be included in the book? The answer is no.
> The data that Tudor uses for some references to religious practices relates to the 1990s! Hello hello, 2016 calling. I wonder how accurate the statistics were in 2012, when the book was written, and today.
> The author mentions a few books and articles, but does not quote them properly I understand that the book is for the general public, but including a footnote when an explicit reference is mentioned will not disturb the general populace, it is a matter of courtesy to the author mentioned, a professional backup for your reputation, and some readers could be interested in that book or article. Just an example:
" In a paper on the influence of chemyon on Korean consumer culture, Yoosun Hann of the University of Illinois wrote that it was important “not to stand out, but to fit in” (pp. 112-113)
RENDERING FOR KINDLE
~~ The comprehensive final index is not rendered for Kindle, therefore, not linked, therefore, useless for Kindle users. Moreover, the number of pages relates to the printed edition. Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!
~~ If I get an e-book, I expect the book to have any website mentioned in the text out-linked.
After reading the book I am sure he is an expert on Korea. Why not including a list of must-read books and reputed sources on Korea?
I cannot highlight enough how much I enjoyed this book and how much I recommend it to anybody who wants to know about Korea. However, the book is not polished enough, and some areas and social groups are not mentioned or barely so.