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 Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Literature as Japanese Colonialism Fell

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

Blade Runner 2049 and Los Angeles’ Korean Future

By Colin Marshall

“LOS ANGELES NOVEMBER, 2019.” So, with that stark title card, begins the film that presented the most fully realized vision of the city’s future in cinema history to that point — and maybe still to this day. It also fixed its setting in the Western imagination as the go-to image of urban dystopia, though when Blade Runner premiered almost three and a half decades ago, that date must have felt comfortably distant. Now, a week before the year 2017 begins, Los Angeles may have got on track to become a densely built metropolis with high-rise-lined streets filled night and day with activity (and not just of the vehicular kind) later than Ridley Scott and company imagined, but the transformation looks well underway nevertheless. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Literature Under the Japanese Occupation

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

Plastic Surgery, Pressure to Succeed, and Presidential Turmoil: Selections from the LARB Korea Blog’s First Year

By Colin Marshall

I started writing the Los Angeles Review of Books Korea Blog on December 4th of last year, just three weeks after moving to Seoul from Los Angeles. One of my first posts covered a protest in Seoul Square; once of the most recent covered a series of demonstrations over the course of weeks that eventually brought up to a million citizens downtown to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye, the announcement of whose impeachment came just this past Friday. I’ll certainly be sticking around to see what happens next. Continue reading

Enlightenment Fiction and the Birth of the “Modern” Korean Novel

By Charles Montgomery

The BLARB 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

Travel Is Living: How Airbnb Ingeniously Markets to Korea

By Colin Marshall

Stuff Koreans Like, a short-lived imitator of the mid-2000s satirical blog Stuff White People Like, only took ten posts to get to travel essay books. “Usually set in foreign cities (mostly New York or Paris),” writes its author, “they feature soft-focus photographs of café facades and interiors, coupled with inane text with no depth or historic/sociological insight into the destination being essayed about, just a lot of ‘Ooh this café was so pretty and its espresso so delicious. Ooh here’s another pretty café and its hot chocolate was so sweet.’” A tough assessment, but in its way a fair one: I come across dozens of (admittedly always well-designed) volumes that more or less fit that description whenever I browse the filled-to-bursting travel shelves at any of the bookstores here in Seoul. Continue reading

Finding Breezy Humor at the End of the World: the Stories of Kim Mi-wol

By Charles Montgomery

Quietly, even sneakily, Kim Mi-wol is becoming a must-read Korean author in translation. Clever readers may have noted a point that has been beaten to death on this blog: younger female writers are leading the charge in Korean literature’s overnight success. From my perspective this is a wonderful thing, but also, by its nature, a limited thing. Because most of these authors come from similar demographics and deal with similar themes (alienation, the quotidian oppression of women, etc.), there is a thematic similarity to their work. Continue reading

Anti-Trump Protests, Anti-Park Protests, and the Koreanization of American Politics

By Colin Marshall

Since the election of Donald Trump last Tuesday, protesters across the United States, thousands of them in downtown Los Angeles alone, have taken to the streets to make their displeasure heard. Coincidentally, anti-presidential protests have also erupted in South Korea own over the past few weeks, culminating in the unrelieved crush of humanity, comprising 500,000 to one million demonstrators — an astonishing number, even in a country with a rich tradition of protest — that filled downtown Seoul on Saturday night. They came not to object to an undesireable president-elect, but to demand the resignation of Park Geun-hye, the president of more than three years who stands accused of having handed the reins of power to an unelected and previously obscure confidante, herself the daughter of a religious cult leader. Continue reading

Finding a New Seoul in the Old Buildings of Kim Swoo-geun, Architect of Modern Korea

By Colin Marshall

Like many a Westerner with an interest in Korea (and without any stake in the relevant historical conflicts), I’ve also cultivated a parallel interest in Japan, and I find few things Japanese as interesting as I find Japanese architecture. Who, I began to wonder as I learned more about the architecture of Japan and the culture of Korea, stands as the Korean equal of a Kenzo Tange, a Kisho Kurokawa, or a Tadao Ando, with their deep concerns not just for the aesthetics but the shape of society to come? I didn’t have an answer until, on a walk through central Seoul with scholar of the both the Korean language and built environment Robert Fouser (whom I more recently interviewed here on the Korea Blog), I first visited Seun Sangga, South Korea’s first large-scale residential-commercial complex. Continue reading