Immerse Yourself in South Korea

Immerse Yourself in South Korea

Every four years, amazing athletes come together from all over the world to compete for Olympic medals for their countries. The Winter Games, beginning February 9 this year, include everything from the beauty of ice skating to the sheer danger of skeleton races. Host cities have to pull off everything from building the facilities for each competition to coming up with a representative mascot for the Games.

PyeongChang hosts the 2018 Winter Games, showing the world what South Korea has to offer. These books and movies pull you into this Olympic venue—and South Korean culture—without having to fly to the peninsula.


Compiled by:
Paula G. O.

Cultural Guides

The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

Y. Euny Hong
Adult Nonfiction - 306.0951 Hon

The author grew up in Gangnam, the posh Seoul neighborhood in the viral video "Gangnam Style".  She takes the reader on a look inside South Korea's world-wide increasing popularity.  The phenomenon is cultivated by a government Ministry of Culture that produces movies, pop bands, video games and more.  Euny Hong talks to teachers, cultural critics, pop music superstars, government minister and others about this cultural shift from really uncool country to the new cool rising star.


Cook Korean!:  A Comic Book with Recipes

Robin Ha
Graphic Novels - 641.59519 Ha

A fun and visual introduction to Korean cooking.  This graphic novel includes 64 recipes and information on often used Korean ingredients.  Cooking steps are fully illustrated in comic form along with personal anecdotes and cultural insights.


Eating Korea: Reports on a Culinary Renaissance

Graham Holliday
Adult Nonfiction - 641.5951 Hol
Series: Anthony Bourdain book

Graham Holliday spent some time in South Korea in the mid-1990s and traveled back there to taste the foods he remembered from then only to find that those traditional flavors are changing with the influx of Western dishes and fusions.  Throughout the book he still seeks out the traditional flavors he remembers and is able to describe his finds in such rich detail that you will get a hint of gochujang spiciness in your mouth as you read.


A Geek in Korea: Discovering Asia's New Kingdom of Cool

Daniel Tudor
Adult Nonfiction - 915.19 Tud

This guide covers all the cultural aspects of South Korea with great photographs and articles.  It includes everything from Buddhism and Confucianism to pop culture and Taekwondo.  Mini-guides to author's favorite neighborhoods in Seoul as well as chapters on cultural norms and practices that are uniquely Korean add to this great look into South Korea.


Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup

Kerry Thompson
Adult Nonfiction - 646.72095 Tho

A practical introduction to Korean methods of skincare and makeup by two influential beauty bloggers, Kerry Thompson and Coco Park.  Includes everything from multi-step Korean skincare routines to Seoul-inspired makeup looks.  Find out how to get flawless looking skin using Asian skin-care philosophies, for all skin types and ethnicities.


Fiction

The Private Life of Plants:  A Novel

Seung-U Lee
Adult Fiction - Lee
Series: Library of Korean Literature

Lee explores the ways in which love and desire can make our flaws both better and worse.  A strange but lyrically beautiful love story filled with prostitutes, Greek myths, and tangled love affairs written by one of South Korea's well-known authors.


Rebel Seoul

Axie Oh
Young Adult Fiction - Y Oh

A dystopian science fiction novel that takes place in the Neo State of Korea in 2199.  The story takes on difficult themes but includes a lot of warmth and humor.  "Equal parts K-drama (Korean drama) and sci-fi blockbuster, Oh blends futuristic tech, authentic Korean culture, and romance in this complex, utterly engrossing, and wholly fresh story that is sure to entice a wide array of readers." --Booklist Reviews


A Small Revolution: A Novel

Jimin Han
Adult Fiction - Han

The story begins in a Pennsylvania college dorm with a gunman holding Yoona Lee and three of her classmates hostage.  The gunman was once Yoona's friend and is trying to unravel the mystery of his best friend's death in South Korea.  The death appears to be a car accident but may be a cover-up.  Yoona must confront her own past and learn the truth.  A Small Revolution is set during the political upheaval of South Korea in the 1980s.


Vaseline Buddha

Young Moon Jung
Adult Fiction - Jung

The narrator begins to tell a story about the attempted robbery of his house, but soon begins freely associating real and imagined events that travel to far-off places like France and Nepal and cover topics from the philosophical to historically obscure.  The themes are disparate, but come together to tell the story of the writing process.  Jung is one of South Korea's more award-winning and eccentric authors.


The Vegetarian: A Novel

Kang Han
Adult Fiction - Han

Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, The Vegetarian, tells the story of Yeong-hye, an ordinary and submissive wife, that turns vegetarian after a nightmare in defiance of her husband's expectations.  The book was originally written in Korean as three novellas.  It is a disturbing tale about family dysfunction.  Want to know more?  Read this excellent review from Dory.


Movies

Adult Asian - 791.4392 Kim Ari

Directed by Kim Ki-duk, this documentary covers his personal crisis brought about by the near suicide of his leading actress during the filming of Dream.  The title, Arirang, comes from the name of a traditional Korean folk song.  In Korean with English subtitles, this film won the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.


The Brotherhood of War = Tae Guk Gi
Adult Audiovisual - Bro

A movie about two brothers forcifully drafted into the Korean War.  Directed by Kang Je-gyu, this film became one of South Korea's biggest box office successes.  The film is in Korean with English subtitles and provides another entry point into Korean cultural history.


In Another Country

If you are looking for Korean cinema without having to read subtitles, this English-language film from South Korean director Hong Sang-soo will fit the bill.  It stars legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert in a triptych of overlapping comedic stories about three different French women, a filmmaker, an adulterer, and a divorcée.  Instantly available on Hoopla.


Lover's concerto = Yŏnae sosŏl
Adult Asian - Lov

A man receives photographs in the mail that remind him of two girls he met five summers ago and the complexities of the relationship between them.  He shares these memories with a friend.  This film is in Korean but includes English subtitles.  It was filmed in PyeongChang where the 2018 Winter Olympics with be held.


Train to Busan
Adult Audiovisual - Tra

A zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea and a couple of train passengers struggle to survive the ride from Seoul to Busan.  It is directed by Yeon Sang-ho in Korean with English subtitles.  According to Variety it is expected to get an English remake.  Watch it now to get the full Korean experience.


War of the Arrows
Adult Asian - WAr

In 1636 during the second Manchu invasion of Korea, Nam-Yi vows to save his sister and her groom and defeat the Manchurians with his single bow when they kidnap them on their wedding day. -- Baker & Taylor  This was the highest grossing film in Korea in 2011.  Truly immersive experience in Korean.


Music


SHINee
Adult Audiovisual - 789.295 Shi

SHINee is known for their super-coordinated dance moves and Everybody provides great tracks to show off their moves.  Listen to the music, but check out the music video for Everybody too.



f(x)
Adult Audiovisual - 789.295 Fx

f(x) is a K-pop girl band started in 2009.  Pink Tape is their second full-length album and was a success in both Korea and the United States.  It includes their lead single Rum Pum Pum Pum.  f(x) has an experimental style and eclectic, electropop-based sound.



SHINee
Adult Asian - 789.29519 Shi

SHINee provides a modern twist on the R&B style of this K-pop band on this studio album.  It is the last album from the band before one of their members, Jonghyun, committed suicide.  The album has a retro late 1980s-90s feel.


Adult Audiovisual - 789.295 Ban

The Boy in Luv single from this BTS album brings hip-hop together with more traditional K-pop elements.  BTS brings out a more sentimental and romantic side to their music in this EP.



BTS
Adult Audiovisual - 789.295 Bts

BTS started out as a hip-hop inspired K-pop band but has moved beyond their original sound with the Wings album.  Their lead single, Blood Sweat & Tears, is a much more symphonic piece overall.