Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: The Founding of Catholic Tradition in Korea

Title: The Founding of Catholic Tradition in Korea
Author: Yu Chai-shin
Paperback: 212 pages
Publisher: Asian Humanities Press (January 2002)

ISBN-10: 0895818922
ISBN-13: 978-0895818928 

This book is the red-headed stepchild of prominent texts on Catholicism in Korea. First and foremost, little is published about this book so I was both a bit curious and skeptical at first. I have been pleasantly surprised before by hidden gems but this book was merely a reprint of six essays from the late 1980s sandwiched in between a preface and epilogue by the editor. Yawn.

Each of the essays have a different author save for one repeat author who thankfully happens to be the best of the bunch. Unfortunately for an English speaking audience all content seems to have been originally written in Korean and translated later or written by those whose first language is not English. I'm not criticizing the book solely on this point but there are times when there's a grammatical or spelling error on every single page of the book. It becomes not only distracting but it hurts the overall argument of the book. It's sloppy mistake to an already dry book.

I can't criticize for not trying as there are some interesting pieces to be found but that doesn't excuse the confounded first chapter and that all-too-common uniquely Korean propaganda voice appearing in the last two chapters. A lack of any sort of art or photos makes this already questionable title a less polished presentation. Furthermore, I can't seem to find a definite answer as to when this book was actually originally organized. 1990? 2002? 2004?

Ultimately, I finished the book in a bad mood because it left more questions than it answered. I purchased it because I was curious about Korea's history of Catholicism and while I was able to pick up some very interesting bits from the late 1800s I was shocked to find very little post-Korean war material despite an entire chapter devoted to this very period. The saving graces is the editor's mildly interesting epilogue on indigenization and the third chapter titled "The Chosun Government's Measures Against Catholicism". Other than that, look somewhere else because this isn't what you're looking for.

- - -

It's a shame because I had high hopes for this one. I'm not too bummed because I saw another book along the same lines in waiting. Also, recently I ran across an oldie that seems to be a bit thicker and probably closer to what I was looking for in the first place. Oh well. Better luck next time.


Post a Comment