Category Archives: The Korea Blog

Dispatches on the literature, cinema, current events, and daily life of Korea from the LARB’s man in Seoul Colin Marshall and others.

You can follow Colin Marshall at blog.colinmarshall.org, on Twitter @colinmarshall, or on Facebook @ColinMarshallEssayist.

The Know-How of Korean Netizens in a High-Spec New Paradigm of Synergy: or, Korea’s Dilbert-Era Loanwords

By Colin Marshall

Lulled into a false sense of security by the simplicity of its alphabet, those students of the Korean language who don’t give up in frustration will sooner or later find themselves facing a variety of unexpected challenges of communication and comprehension. Nearly a decade after learning that deceptively easy writing system, I still often get unintentional laughs from Korean interlocutors myself, especially when I fail to recognize one of the many words they borrow from my own mother tongue. “What, you don’t speak English?” they jokingly ask, but in fact I don’t speak Konglish, that curious hybrid of Korean and English now so commonly heard south of the 38th parallel. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: The Social Tragedies of the “Economic Miracle”

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Meeting Her Parents, Meeting Her Country: an American’s First Taste of Korea

By Stefano Young

Stefano Young didn’t know the difference between Korea, China, and Japan until he was 23 — but then he met a Korean woman, learned to say “사랑해요,” and has studied Korean language and culture ever since. In an occasional series starting this week, the Los Angeles Review of Books Korea Blog will present his essays on his ever-deepening experiences with Korean life, culture, and family. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Deeper Into the War’s Aftermath, a Deeper Sense of Separation

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post.

Two weeks ago, this chapter began on the Korea Blog with the conclusion of the Korean War, focusing on the moment of separation and its aftermath. This half focuses more on what one might call “second generation” separation literature, the writing that attempts to look at the separation from a generational remove, not examining national separation directly but the notion of separation in more personal and social settings. A good example of late-era separation literature, Kim Won-Il’s Evening Glow, tells the story of a businessman named Kim Kapsu returning to his countryside home for a funeral. There he reconnects with and re-assesses the complicated strands of his previous life, one lived in the turbulent period of Korean Civil War. Continue reading

Western Avenue: How Korean Cinema Portrayed the 1992 Los Angeles Riots

By Colin Marshall

The Korean name of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sa-i-gu (사이구), means “four, two, nine” — or rather 4/29, the first of the six days they tore through streets after the the Rodney King verdict came out. Given Los Angeles’ large Korean population, the highest of any city outside the Korean Peninsula itself, and the fact that its Korean-owned stores took so much of the damage, the Korean media granted this unrest on the other side of the Pacific the importance of a domestic disaster, flying at least 30 journalists straight over to interpret the chaos for the dismayed and bewildered audience back home. The very next year, Korean cinema, enjoying a 1990s resurgence after a couple decades spent losing out to foreign (and especially Hollywood) imports, came out with its first and still only statement on the riots: Western Avenue. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: War and Separation

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Reforming a Leper Colony and Other Tricky Tasks: Three Recent Volumes of Translated Korean Fiction

By Charles Montgomery

While I’ve been messing around trying to post the Explorer’s Guide To Translated Literature here,  missing deadlines, Korean authors and translators have continued to work together to pump out great Korean works of fiction now available in English. Today I’ll  discuss three works that have recently come to attention: Yi Chong-Jun’s Your Paradise, Bang Hyeong-Seok’s collection Time To Eat Lobster, and a collection of work by female authors, The Future of Silence. Continue reading

The March of Fools: a College Comedy Darkened by Dictatorship

By Colin Marshall

This is one in a series of essays on important pieces of Korean cinema freely available on the Korean Film Archive’s Youtube channel. You can watch this month’s movie here and find links to previously featured movies below.

Mixers, sports matches, drinking contests, brushes with the law, anxiety about the future — Western audiences have come to expect all these elements from college comedies over the past half-century, and they’ll recognize them all in The March of Fools (바보들의 행진), a movie that belongs to essentially the same tradition. But it renders its college-comedy tropes a few shades darker to better reflect the reality of mid-1970s South Korea, a time and place caught between the demands of a very old social culture and the equally rigorous ones of the relatively new dictatorship intent on developing the country’s economy and keeping its people in line. Its hapless freshmen protagonists may get into as much trouble as the denizens of Delta House, but those guys never had to look into quite so deep an abyss. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: What about War?

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Eating Korea: an Anthony Bourdain-Approved Search for the Culinary Soul of an Ever-Changing Country

By Colin Marshall

Koreans I meet for the first time tend to draw all their questions from the same well. What they ask starts out basic — why I came to Korea, what kind of work I do, how did I become interested in Korea in the first place — and then gets more culturally revealing. Having asked how long I’ve lived here, for instance, they often follow up with, “Until when will you live here?”, I question I wouldn’t even imagine asking a recent arrival in America. When the subject turns to matters of the table, as in this food-centric society it always does, they almost invariably ask not “Do you like Korean food?” but “Can you eat Korean food?” — a matter not of taste, they imply, but ability. Continue reading