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The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want,…
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The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies (1998)

by Michael Breen

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One of the most fascinating, concise history texts available. Its curiously long title might come off as zealous but chalk it up to poor marketing because the book itself is a valuable piece of work that is far easier to delve into. Breen breaks each chapter down into manageable pieces that impressively read like page-turning newspaper articles and less like dry scholarly papers.

An obviously brilliant writer, Breen's journalistic fact-then-opinion approach helps to identify what is interpretation and what is generally understood to be factual. His sprinkled personal anecdotes are appropriate and charming. He's also humbly modest when he claims that ancient Korea is not his field of study because he does a fine job at covering the important aspects of ancient Korea and her vast history.

All in all, this is a must read for those wanting to gain a well-educated and experienced look into Korea. ( )
  matthew254 | Nov 20, 2011 |
Nothing to Envy got me interested in learning more about Korea, and this book was recommend by the author, so I got it despite the subtitle (Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies), which has an offputting tinge of The Aliens have Landed! It was, actually, quite interesting to read. The author is a journalist who lived in Seoul for fifteen years. The book has four major sections: society, history, economy, politics, all of which are interspersed with personal anecdotes conveyed with mingled exasperation and humor and affection, in a style that is not exactly PC, and that sometimes compares Korean people and institutions unfavorably with ideals rather than realities of British counterparts. And yet, this can be a useful perspective on another culture, with one model of how things should be encountering another. Maybe I noticed this aspect more because as an American I might not have seen things in quite the author's way. So, grain of salt, not the definitive last word, and a tad sketchy in the history section, but still well worth reading.

(read 24 Apr 2011)
  qebo | Jul 16, 2011 |
koreans are blind to non-koreans, hence - pushy in traffic, rude, they do things quickly and poor quality.
  iou6000 | Apr 11, 2008 |
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Most foreign journalists I know, at the end of a three-, four-, or five-year stretch in Seoul, will admit as they leave, 'I can't figure this place out'.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312326092, Paperback)

The rise of South Korea is one of the most unexpected and inspirational developments of the latter part of our century. A few decades ago, the Koreans were an impoverished, agricultural people. In one generation they came out of the fields and into Silicon Valley. In 1997, this powerhouse of a nation reeled and almost collapsed as a result of a weak financial system and heavily indebted conglomerates. The world is now watching to see whether the Koreans will be able to reform and continue their stunning growth.

Although Korea has only recently found itself a part of the global stage, it is a country with a rich and complex past. Early history shows that Koreans had a huge influence on ancient Japan, and their historic achievements include being the first culture to use metal movable type for printing books. However, much of their history is less positive; it is marred with political violence, poverty, and war-aspects that would sooner be forgotten by the Koreans, who are trying to focus on their promising future.

The fact that Korean history has eluded much of the world is unfortunate, but as Korea becomes more of a global player, understanding and appreciation for this unique nation has become indispensable.

In The Koreans, Michael Breen provides an in-depth portrait of the country and its people. an early overview of the nature and values of the Korean people provides the background for a more detailed examination of the complex history of the country, in particular its division into the Communist north and pro-Western south.

In this absorbing and enlightening account of the Koreans, Michael Breen provides compelling insight into the history and character of this fascinating nation.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:32 -0400)

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