Bombastic cultural PRChoi Joon-sik’s “Understanding Koreans and Their Culture” should have been called “Understanding How Fantastic Koreans and Their Culture Are.”
In dealing with his self-professed goal of explaining “Who is Koreans?” [sic], Choi starts off on a seemingly objective tack, examining why Koreans are such cliquey folk through the lens of Confucianism.
But the book quickly descends into cultural masturbation. Expounding the virtues of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, Choi goes so far as to say, “It is truly amazing that these three symbols [the building blocks of Hangul], combined together, enable the Korean letters to encapsulate all the pronunciations in the world on paper.”
As a frequent text messenger, I admire the precision and ingenuity of Hangul, but as a person whose name is pronounced “Rich” in English and “Leechie” in Korean, I had trouble swallowing this claim.
Choi, a professor of Korean studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, goes on to analyze the extent of Internet penetration in Korea , explaining the main cause as the popularity of the computer game “Starcraft.”
“As it was mentioned about Starcraft, I would like to emphasize that Koreans are unrivaled when it comes to entertainment,” he writes, failing to mention that Starcraft is an American game.
“Online games are indeed the best form of youth entertainment,” is the decidedly debatable addendum.
It is these oleaginous, bombastic statements that most grate on the reader, particularly the non-Korean audience that Choi is presumably addressing, as the book is in English.
Were the text stripped of statements like, “That definitely is a remarkable accomplishment!” or “No one in their wildest dreams expected something so incredible to happen,” the book would perhaps work as a handout in tourist information centers. As it is, it only detracts from what, in many respects, is an endearing culture.
The book is published by Her One Media and costs 12,000 won ($12.26). By Richard Scott-Ashe