Show me Korea.
August 2, 2009 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to South Korea in a month, and I'm looking for films, books, and art to inspire and direct my wanderings around the country.

Documentaries, thrillers, fiction, poetry, anything. No constraints, really-- if you have a great Korean cookbook, I want to know that too-- and while I am interested in the Korean War and North Korea, the reason I'm asking this question is the vast majority of films and books I'm familiar with are about those two subjects!
posted by acidic to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know next to nothing about Korea, but I'd say you HAVE to watch the vengence trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengence (the best of the trilogy, in my humble opinion), Old Boy, and Lady Vengence) as well as Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring. Modern Korean cinema is nothing short of kick ass.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 1:11 PM on August 2, 2009

This is my favorite Korean art film. Difficult to watch in parts.
posted by whiskeyspider at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2009

While I'd second the "vengeance trilogy" recommended by TheyCallItPeace as interesting films to see in general, for what you're looking for I think his/her other recommendation ("Spring, Summer, etc") is far better, and will whet your appetite for nationwide wandering. Kim Ki Duk is recommended as a whole for artsy Korean cinema, though some of his other offerings are not for the squeamish.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 2:20 PM on August 2, 2009

While it's on the dense and academic-y side, Bruce Cumings Korea's Place in the Sun is considered to be a solid overview of Korean history, with an emphasis on the 20th century, the Korean War, and a thoughtful (a somewhat controversial) take on North Korea.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang is a memoir of growing up in the North Korean gulag. Very powerful, a little annoying at the end.

Fatmanseoul is, IMO, the best food blog in Korea. Lots of good suggestions for cool, out-of-the-way restaurants to seek out and explore.

Koreasparkle is a K-blog aggregator and hence, a mixed bag. But it's generally a good source of info. for anything from high- to pop-cultural stuff.

I'm always hesitant to give direct suggestions, taste being what it is, but with these four sources I've managed to find lots of interesting and cool stuff to read about and do since I've been in Korea myself.
posted by bardic at 8:07 PM on August 2, 2009

Lots of great movies recommended above. I'll add Seopyeonje (suh-pyun-jay), which is gorgeous and heartbreaking, and The King and the Clown for 16th century Korea. My Sassy Girl seems to still be recommended as the modern Korean romantic-comedy. It's really really silly and not to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it.

It's a bit harder to find Korean literature. You could try the "Color" trilogy, a series of graphic novels. It's set in old-timey Korea.

If you want to be terrified by modern Korea, try watching some music videos:
"Tell Me" by the Wondergirls

And my personal favourite, "U" by SuperJunior. Look at how many members there are! Ridiculous.
posted by Rora at 9:06 PM on August 2, 2009

I'd recommend the "No Reservations" episode on Korea (really, South Korea). It's great at showing the dynamism in the food and culture of the country.
posted by chan.caro at 9:22 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite Korean cookbook, but it's in Korean. I don't know if it would inspire any wanderlust, either, as it covers the cuisine of Seoul-area yangban families. The title translates to "600 Years of Seoul Food". It's a cuisine you rarely see outside of Korea, and it's a counterpoint to the view that typical Korean food is hot and spicy.
posted by needled at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2009

I don't have any specific recommendations, but this website is great for getting a feel of Korean cinema.

Dramabeans is another good site, focusing mostly on television dramas and related news.
posted by parjanya at 2:11 AM on August 27, 2009

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