Essential Reads: Korea
The 2018 Winter Olympics has come to a close but if you are one of the many whose interest in Korea is just beginning, then you’ll want to check out these 11 essential reads. I’ve selected a mix of history, food, contemporary culture, and fiction to get you started on your Korean exploration. Plus, a bonus read on Korean-Americans.
Illustrated book by Won-bok Rhie, one of Korea’s most famous cartoonists. You’ll get an insider’s look at Korean history, culture, and people including answers to questions that Westerners may have about the country. An easy, informative, and at times comical read.
A primer on the history of Korea (beginning with the 1950s and the Korean War), including the role of US policy.
To understand Korea is to understand the monumental role that President Park Chung Hee (president from 1963 – 1979) played in Korea’s economic transformation. This book provides a detailed history of Park Chung Hee’s training in the Japanese colonial army, making the connection to how he approached his presidency and the indelible mark her left on Korea.
Graphic novel meets cookbook in Cook Korean! This accessible cookbook provides detailed recipes for Korean staples alongside cultural insights.
YouTube star Maangchi provides detailed recipes for all of your current Korean favorites and the ones you’re sure to love.
I love books like this – history+culture+food. Learn about the history of chopsticks, their varied uses, and their role in Korean culture.
A stunning historical novel that follows a Korean family across decades and generations. Though the characters are fictional, the Korea-Japan relations reflect the circumstances of the time as do the cultural references.
Another piece of historical fiction that will provide you insight into Korea’s social and geopolitical conditions in the early 20th century.
Korean author, Young-Ha Kim, weaves a tale invoking the North-South Korea divide and their enduring loyalties. A North Korean sleeper agent embedded in the South is called back after 21 years. Why and what will happen to his wife and daughter in the South?
How did Korea become so cool? Euny Hong charts the global rise of Korean culture, such as K-pop and K-dramas, to name a few, in her accessible, insightful, and light-hearted text.
A Westerner’s memoir of his time in Korea working in the auto industry. You’ll learn how Frank Ahrens about Korean business culture.
A bonus! This was the FIRST book I read about Korean Americans. Published in 1996, “East to America” presents a range of Korean American experiences. There is no model minority here. Only the raw voices of 38 distinct individuals.