Club promotes reading through forums, reviews

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Club promotes reading through forums, reviews

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As an adult in Korea, a bit of social drinking, to say the least, is almost a prerequisite to entering the work force. Around eight or nine o’clock, when offices and conference rooms close their doors, the streets turn into a frenzy with beer or soju as central items.
With work and the after-hours drinking culture consuming most of the average working adult’s time and energy, it is difficult to imagine an old-fashioned hobby like reading could exist in their lives.
Which is why the following statement by Shin Seong-seok, a corporate strategy manager at NCsoft Corp., is quite surprising: “I usually read for about two hours everyday, from 10 p.m. to 12 p.m.”
Mr. Shin is also the organizer and manager of a book club for working men and women called “BizBook,” which has around 5,800 members. Founded in October 2003, it operates as an on- and offline book club that holds study sessions and forums, as well as featuring reviews and recommendations of books. Because the club specifically targets books that will be informative or beneficial for working adults, the majority that are discussed focus on economy, marketing, social science, politics and even self-help.
So why do these busy working men and women read?
“It’s like the movie ‘Da Vinci Code.’ Most people that I’ve met who read the book before they saw the movie say that the movie was quite boring. This is because, unlike other communication mediums such as film and TV, reading requires one to determine or sift through his or her own feelings and thoughts on a matter,” said Mr. Shin, adding, “Books call for the reader’s own imagination and ethics to play a part.”
“It’s economical. For the price of a few cups of coffee, I get to experience something that I can’t get from real life,” says Jeong Kwan-sik, a section manager at Siemens and a member of BizBook.
Of course, assuming you graduated from elementary school and had teachers who told you to read, you know all this. But who can find the time?
“Around 10 p.m. to 12 p.m. is when the best TV dramas are usually playing. Although I am not a drama fan, once I see a few episodes, there is a certain addiction, a feeling that you need to see how it all turns out. So I just used those few hours instead, to read,” said Mr. Shin.
As members revealed the ways they make time to read, it became more evident that there is a certain “method” to reading.
“I read when I’m moving ― on buses or subways. It takes an hour-and-a-half for me to go to work, so I spend about three hours reading everyday,” said Lim Min-kyung, a member of the club who is also a teacher at “Yeongeonara.”
“As I am in sales, I travel a lot for business. So I usually read on planes, trains and buses. The most important thing for me is to write a one or two page review about each book I’ve read. This keeps me on my toes and I feel like I have actually done something when I go back and read these reviews,” said Park Sung-gu.
While explaining her strategies, Yu Seung-hee, a member and an employee at a medical machinery import company said, “Actually, that is why I joined this club ― so that I’d be forced to read at least one book every two weeks. It’s harder to read on your own than if you have a group of people to discuss the book with.”
“One’s own reading strategy is crucial to be able to continue the hobby of reading. Especially with non-fiction books on business and marketing, it is harder to concentrate and actually make it through the last chapters. If this is the case, try another book with similar content that is written in simpler form,” Mr. Shin said.
To try to help working men and women get more intimate with the printed word, four members of Bizbook, with the support of other members, wrote a book titled, “Strategic Reading for Working men and women,” published by Today Books in March.
The book, intended as a guide to reading as an adult, is divided into two parts. The first has five general essays on reading, including “Strategies for Reading when you are a Working Man or Woman” and “How to Write and Organize your Book Reviews.”
The second part has introductions and reviews on 20 books that were selected by the members of the club.
“There was a lot of impressive writing on the online boards of the club. I didn’t want it to go to waste,” Mr. Shin said. “For people who read a lot of books on their own, this book is not really necessary. However, for average working men and women, it might be quite helpful as an aid in getting started on reading,” he added.
As for reading genres other than non-fiction on economy, marketing, social science or politics, the members differed in their opinions. “I like reading non-fiction books on economy and politics because they have more of a relevance to what I am doing in my life right now,” said Ms. Yu.
“I used to read a lot of novels and poems when I was younger. However, at this stage of my life, I read for self-development as well as for enjoyment. Probably, when I get a bit older, I think I will resort back to reading more fiction,” Mr. Shin said.


by Cho Jae-eun
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