For the third Armchair Travels feature, we’re all headed to South Korea. Before we check out some books from the country, here’s a few things about South Korea that might interest you:
- The national flower of Korea is the mugunghwa, Rose of Sharon. Mugunghwa comes from the Korean word mugung, which means immortality.
- Korea’s national anthem is “Aegukga,” which means “Love the Country”.
- The Korean flag is called “Taegeukgi“. Its designed to symbolize the principle of yin and yang. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven (), earth (), fire (), and water (). (Source)
- The traditional Korean dress is called Hanbok in South Korea (Chosŏn-ot in North Korea).
- Korean cuisine, hanguk yori, is largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables, fish and meats. Kimchi is a popular fermented side dish made of vegetables, and is usually spicy. It is usually made using napa cabbage, cucumber or radish as the main ingredient. (Source)
Now let’s check out the books…
When Adam Opens His Eyes by Jang Jung-Il
First published in 1990, this is a sensational and highly controversial novel by one of Korea’s most electrifying contemporary authors. A preposterous coming-of-age story, melding sex, death, and high school in a manner reminiscent of some perverse collision between Georges Bataille and Beverly Cleary, the narrator of this book plows through contemporaneous Korean mores with aplomb, bound for destruction, or maturity — whichever comes first.
Twofold Song (Modern Korean Short Stories) by Yi Mun-yol
From one of Korea’s most distinguished authors in the modern era comes Twofold Song, the story of a couple who ceaselessly try and express their love artistically in author Yi Mun-yol’s poetic short story. Sublime and resplendent with rich connotative analogies, Twofold Song has all the markings of Yi’s careful, brush-like writing style and serene plot development.
Our Twisted Hero by Yi Mun-yol
When the twelve-year-old narrator of Our Twisted Hero moves to a small town and enrolls in the local school, he’s confident that his big city sophistication will establish him as a natural leader. He is shocked to find his new classmates and teacher under the spell of the class monitor. As the narrator sets out to overthrow the bully, he is threatened, teased–and finally broken.
No One Writes Back by Jang Eun-jin
Communication — or the lack thereof — is the subject of this sly update of the picaresque.
When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul are proud of their Korean heritage. Yet they live their lives under Japanese occupation. All students must read and write in Japanese and no one can fly the Korean flag. Hardest of all is when the Japanese Emperor forces all Koreans to take Japanese names. Sun-hee and Tae-yul become Keoko and Nobuo. Korea is torn apart by their Japanese invaders during World War II. Everyone must help with war preparations, but it doesn’t mean they are willing to defend Japan. Tae-yul is about to risk his life to help his family, while Sun-hee stays home guarding life-and-death secrets.
Check these books out on Goodreads:
Have you read any books mentioned in this post?
March 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm
Love this armchair series. I never heard of these books before.
March 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm
Thank you very much, Nish! :)
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March 20, 2014 at 9:54 pm
All of these books are new to me. I’m trying to think if i’ve read anything set in Korea and I don’t think i have. Better get on that!
March 21, 2014 at 7:00 pm
Me too! I better work on the books I find for these posts. I’m planning to read Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered soon :)
March 21, 2014 at 7:32 pm
I really love this series, too! I’ve had When My Name Was Keoko on my bookshelf in my classroom, but have only read parts of it. I really do need to read the whole thing :)
March 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm
Thank you! May I ask why you didn’t finish it? I am planning to read it soon :)