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review 2016-05-16 01:45
A literary masterpiece about humanity
Human Acts - Han Kang

This author continues to astonish me. Her first book, “The Vegetarian”, is a totally unique work of fiction.  This book, “Human Acts”, is a fictionalized account of an actual student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980.  Hundreds of people (estimates run from 600 to 2,000), most of them young students, were killed during this protest.  This book focuses on the death of one 15-year-old boy, Dong-ho.

 

Ms. Kang has a wonderful talent for bringing her characters to life. She will follow a trickle of sweat down a woman’s neck until you can actually feel it yourself.  So her re-telling of the brutality inflicted on these innocent people makes it a very hard subject matter to read.  These people become a part of your life  so there’s no turning away when terrible things happen to them.  I found it to be a very emotional book.  This is not a book for the faint hearted.  There are horrendous torture scenes depicted.  But as always when human acts are at their worst, there are also acts of courage and solidarity and love and hope.

 

The book is written in interconnected chapters covering the period right before the uprising began in 1980 through 2013. They include the stories of a young boy searching for his presumed-dead friend, a mother facing denial, an editor dealing with censorship, a prisoner trying to find a reason to continue living and a victim struggling with nightmares so many years later.  There is even a chapter about a young victim whose consciousness is still connected to his dead body who tries to puzzle out why he was killed.  The last chapter is about the author’s own personal connection with Gwnagju.  There is a scene in this book about a censored play that was so moving and powerful that I will never forget it.  Often the characters tell their stories to “You” who is unnamed.  The unnamed “You” is sometimes meant to be you, the reader, other times it’s you, the dead and yet other times it’s you, the people as they were before the massacre.

 

Ms. Kang has written a fitting tribute to the victims of the Gwangju uprising. Quite a literary masterpiece.  Highly recommended.

 

I won a copy of this book in a LibraryThings giveaway.

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review 2014-08-15 02:21
If You Were Me and Lived in Series by Carole P. Roman (10 book series)
If you were me and lived in... South Korea: A Child's Introduction to Cultures around the World (If You Were Me and Lived in... A Child's Introduction to Culture's Around the World) - Carole Roman

I loved the If you were me and lived in series of books by Carole P. Roman. Several books in the series are Reader Views Reviewers Choice award winners, Pinnacle Book Achievement Award winners, Rebecca's Reads Choice Award winners and I can see why. The colors used in the illustrations are realistic colors and show off the pictures well. Occasionally the print is over a picture or on a dark colored page, but the print is a good size and reads very clearly. The whole series is enjoyable and educational at the same time. The books even have a glossary with a pronunciation guide in the back.
Home school parents would love these for their lesson plans, but even more, I can see children reading these with interest without much pressure because they make learning about it's specific country entertaining.

 

***the Complete set of If You Were Me and Lived In series was won from a giveaway from the author through The Children's Book Review****

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review 2013-04-07 05:55
Book review: Daniel Tudor's "Korea: The Impossible Country"
Korea: The Impossible Country - Daniel Tudor

Originally from here!

 

Local admirers of everything Korean may be pleased to find out that the people of the Korean peninsula share a few similar traits with those of us here in the Philippines.

 

Foremost of these is the concept of “jeong,” or “the invisible hug.” Defined as “feelings of fondness, caring, bonding, and attachment that develop within interpersonal relationships,” it often leads to an interdependence that results in friends, schoolmates, or coworkers looking out and supporting each other first and foremost. It’s a concept similar to our very own “bayanihan,” and is something that Filipinos and Koreans can definitely bond over.

 

The chapters on the changing face of the Korean family and the high regard given to the English language will resonate with local readers as well. One can’t help but notice the parallel changes happening in Korean and Filipino families, and how both could learn a thing or two from each other.

 

In fact, Tudor writes quite a bit about Korean characteristics that Filipinos would do well to emulate. Foremost of that is the high regard given by Koreans to education. The book reveals that after the Korean War, the Syngman Rhee government increased elementary school enrollment eight times and secondary school enrollment 10 times, with 19 percent of the government’s budget spent on education. It’s a policy one certainly wishes the Philippine government would take.

 

But what gives “Korea: The Impossible Country” its added oomph is its willingness to take on the less than savory aspects present in the Korean peninsula.

 

Just like the Philippines, the Korean market is dominated by an oligarchy of family-run businesses, or chaebol. Through the years, these chaebol have grown to become global powerhouses as well — brands like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai are now competing against Western products.

 

What most of us may not know, and what Tudor reveals in the book, is that these chaebol found their start in a crony system not unlike that of former President Ferdinand Marcos. A past full of corruption, bribes, and dubious government connections are shared by these chaebol, and it is fascinating to read about and discover.

 

As powerful an export as Korea’s media has become, it is surprising to find out that the country has a dismal record when it comes to freedom of the press and free speech. South Korean libel laws are one of the strongest in the world — one can still be sued even if the allegations are true. As such, the book says that these laws have often been used to suppress political dissent in the country.

 

The pushback against the Hallyu wave is also fascinating to read, especially since it still hasn’t started here in the Philippines. In places like China, Japan, and Taiwan, Korean content is regulated, and is sometimes even subject to opposition. In 2011, thousands of protesters picketed Japan’s Fuji TV because of a perceived excess in its Korean programming.

 

Female fans looking to bag themselves a K-Pop husband — or at least the closest approximation of it — are also bound top be disappointed by the book’s frank appraisal of the country’s xenophobia. We may welcome them here in the country, but the same may not be the case in South Korea. As the book plainly states in Chapter 25, “Multicultural Korea?”, some bias exists in the country, especially against Southeast Asians.

 

The book maintains that it doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon: “It is unfortunate that while South Koreans are opening up very quickly to people from abroad, the pace of change is much slower for those from places like Indonesia or the Philippines. Since discrimination against people from these countries is mainly a product of wealth disparity, it will probably remain in spite of the decline of pure-blood nationalism.”

 

It is this wealth of information, the balanced perspective on the pros and cons of Koran society, as well as the clear and concise prose that prevents the book from reading like an academic textbook, that makes “Korea: The Impossible Country” impossible to resist. Admirers and detractors of everything Korean have a lot to gain from reading this book, and precious little to lose.

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