This is only Korean author Kyung-sook Shin’s second novel to be translated into English. Her first, Please Look After Mom, hit the New York Time Bestseller list, but her second translated novel, I’ll Be Right There, is my favorite, exploring themes and territories that surpasses the ”Oprah book club”-esque nature of her past novels.
I’ll Be Right There follows Yoon, a woman who gets a sudden phone call from an ex-boyfriend she hadn’t spoken to in nearly 18 years. Her ex tells her that a beloved college professor is on their death bed. This triggers Yoon to go on a trip down memory lane, reminiscing of her college days during South Korea’s tumultuous ’90s, a time filled with political turmoil, protests, and tear gas.
But this is not a political novel. The politics play as a backdrop to the four pivotal characters, Yoon, Dahn, Myungsuh, and Miry, as they navigate past heartaches, idealism, and loneliness. There’s a lot of death in this novel — so much that it almost takes on a desensitizing effect. But probably what’s most impressive about the book is how it manages to be a page-turner despite having a minimal plot. At the end of the day, people die, people break up, and people live on despite their adversaries. But through friendship and the power of art, some can learn to charge through it.
|Recommended by Tiffany White||Thursday, January 7th, 2016||No Comments »|
If you’re a YA fan more than K-Pop purist, you’re going to love Katie M. Stout’s Hello, I Love You. If you’ve enjoyed the occasional romance or EXO music video, you’re definitely going to root for Grace and Jason’s East Vs. West romance. She’s the black sheep of her musical family and he’s Korea’s newest pop superstar, but at the heart of the story are very mature themes of familial duty and responsibilities, which sets this YA romance apart from the many faceless offerings of the genre.
Did Stout handle Korean culture appropriately? No. But did she craft a really good YA romance that’s full of fun and lively side characters? Yes, definitely. It’s a cute story with an exotic setting that’s told in broad, emotive strokes along with finer details of spicy foods and city life in Seoul.
If you’ve ever fallen in love with one of the leads from one of many of the fabulous Korean dramas out there, you’ll definitely feel for Grace Wilde’s heartfelt trials.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Wednesday, June 24th, 2015||No Comments »|
These days most entertainment exported from East Asia, whether it’s a pop band or the next film wave, comes out of South Korea. However, one market they still haven’t conquered is animation, a medium that Japan still has on lockdown. But that doesn’t mean Korea hasn’t tried to steal their crown. The King of Pigs, a 2011 film about school bullying, is Korea’s first international splash into the animation world–and boy is it intense.
In the movie, two high school friends reunite to discuss an emotionally scarring school year that still haunts them. Relentlessly bullied as teens, they seek friendship and safety with Kim Chul, the so-called “king of pigs,” who makes it his life mission to defeat the bullies. But, as expected, it all ends terribly.
|Recommended by Tiffany White||Wednesday, June 10th, 2015||No Comments »|
Korean director Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy, Stoker) is known for a lot of things, most notably his pertinence for outrageously violent or outrageously morbid films. But one aspect of his work that’s often overlooked is his dark humor. Park is the king of injecting odd moments of humor in highly emotional scenes, cutting the tension with outlandishness in a way that only Park can. His 1999 short film Judgement is the perfect example of this.
Created before his critically-acclaimed vengeance trilogy, the film has all of Park’s trademark quirks. The film takes place in a morgue shortly after an earthquake has ravished Korea and left hundreds dead. A dead disfigured girl lies on a table while two families fight over whose daughter it is. As the film unfolds, it’s revealed that everyone in the room has an ulterior motive. But the biggest twist is the ending, which I won’t give away. It’s just too weird and perfect not to recommend.
Park has also directed other short films, like short documentary Nepal about a poor Nepalese woman living in Korea, and 2014′s A Rose Reborn about an American CEO who goes through a series of challenges. Find some time today and watch them all.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Thursday, March 5th, 2015||No Comments »|
There’s something about monochromatic media that’s pleasing to the eye. Whether it’s a film, a photograph, or even a drawing, I believe the absence of color reminds us of times gone by that perhaps we never experienced. The art of Daehyun Kim, a Korean artist based in Seoul, happens to fit into that category of inducing eeriness by its simplistic design and lack of color. His creations all form part of a single life-long series and are definite examples of masterful minimalism.
According to the artist himself, his drawings are made only by using black ink on white material, choices that he assures are devoid of convoluted meaning–he simply likes black, like other people. His explanation for the continued use of motifs in his artwork is also quite mundane, stating that he draws based on his thoughts and feelings at the moment. Another peculiar anecdote is that Kim portrays the people in his drawings as having no facial expressions or gender, all choices made to emphasize their gestures and make the viewer a neutral observer instead of a friend or enemy.
|Recommended by Stefano Llinas||Tuesday, February 10th, 2015||No Comments »|
Husband/wife bloggers Simon and Martina are English teachers living and teaching in Korea. Their YouTube channel Eat Your Kimchi is a sprawling collection of hilarious videos (more than 500) where they discuss all facets of Korean culture from K-Pop to Korean humor. In fact, people who are followers of Korean culture or the K-Pop music scene are probably well-acquainted with Simon and Martina. After all, their YouTube channel has more than 300,000 subscribers. The duo even successfully raised more than $100,000 to buy their own studio via Indiegogo.
But despite their online popularity, the two have received very little attention in the press (unless you count this article published in the Vancouver Observer). In fact, if you’re not inside the ever-growing Korean pop culture bubble, you might not have even heard of them.
Even if Korean culture isn’t your thing, Eat Your Kimchi has tons to offer. Simon and Martina are hilarious and have amazing rapport with each other. From videos about couple culture (above), to videos about life in Korea, Simon and Martina have the rare talent in making even the most mundane topics hilarious. They also have weekly playlists where they showcase indie K-Pop, like Neon Bunny.
|Recommended by Tiffany White||Thursday, August 8th, 2013||No Comments »|