Throughout the last 33 years, Rhie Won-bok’s educational series “Far Countries, Near Countries” offered young Korean readers a glimpse into the culture and history of other countries.
Yet the series’ volume on Korea is also a great introduction for people with no background knowledge on the country. Based on Rhie’s thorough research and keen observations, the book presents an insightful and sometimes hilarious analysis of Korean culture, society and its people.
|From left: The Korean, English and recently released French edition of Rhie Won-bok’s cartoon “Korea Unmasked” (Gimmyoung Publishers)|
“I’ve received a number of invites from newly arrived ambassadors,” Rhie said. “Many of them had read the English edition of the book prior to arriving in Korea and invited me for dinner once they got here.”
The book addresses Korea’s key traditional values and philosophy, such as the concept of “seonbi,” the virtuous scholar, who should be humble, uncompromising, and with a high sense of integrity and incorruptibility.
It also offers a number of entertaining analyses on Korea’s complex contemporary culture and society, and how they are intertwined with Korea’s traditional values, colonial history, and rapid modernization and industrialization.
The book covers how more than 35 percent of the entire population converted to Christianity in just some 30 years; a comparative study on South Korea’s chaebol capitalism and North Korea’s hereditary dictatorship; why Korean families migrate en-masse, in spite of stress and troubles, to visit hometowns in time for traditional holidays such as Chuseok; and the heyday of karaoke in Korea in the early 1990s.
“I am certainly proud,” Rhie said, when asked about how he feels about the book being translated into six different languages. “This book is a cultural achievement (rather than a financial profit). I hope more people can familiarize themselves with Korea through this book.”
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)