Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: Korea Unmasked : In Search of the Country, the Society and the People

Title: Korea Unmasked In Search of the Country, the Society and the People (New Edition)
Author: Won-bok Rhie, Jung Un, Louis Choi
Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: Gimm-Young New Edition (January 1, 2005)
ISBN-10: 8934917717
ISBN-13: 978-8934917717



For what it is, it's wonderful. One must take into consideration that this is a non-fiction comic book and as such, it takes some liberties for the sake of brevity. We are talking about summing up a whole culture into less than 250 pages. Comments such as "this book is too general" or "it takes too many liberties" failed to see what this book is intended to be - a general overall for people with virtually no background knowledge of Korea. To that end, this book excels.

I also commend this book in its comparison with Japan, China, and America. The author has taken a vast amount of information and condensed it into very approachable subjects such as cultural identity, leadership and economic growth.

Let's not forget that this book is driven by it's artistic style which is quite pleasant and not distracting the least. For an animator, the script is well written and translated which includes very native-English references and subtle jokes that demonstrate his dedication to the project.

All in all, it's a great non-academic read that is recommended to anyone looking to take an introduction to Korea without having to dig through countless volumes of ancient history and poorly translated, nationalistic rhetoric.

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I must re-emphasis this point - this is a comic book slash graphic novel. It's goal is to introduce Korean culture and history through humor, generalization and comparative analysis. I urge anyone reading this book to stop viewing it as a doctoral dissertation. It's a comic book for crying out loud. It does what it's supposed to do - entertain and educate.

I like the author's interpretation of geographic disposition on how it helps define cultural identity. he makes a convincing argument for Koreans to feel as ethnocentric and nationalistic as they do. We can all agree that Korean nationalism is no simple matter and Rhie offers one explanation.

For what it's designed to do, it's great. Buy it, giggle, learn a little about Korea and it's neighbors and then return to academic studies. Don't use this as a reference for anything but a commentary. It's a fun read. Hands down.

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