Looking for books about South Korean culture
October 1, 2018 4:58 AM   Subscribe

I’m volunteering as an ESL tutor for adults and am working with a woman from South Korea. I’m looking for resources, especially books, on everyday South Korean life, customs, and culture.

I’m already learning a lot from my student(especially about Korean food!), but would like some more background knowledge. As a frame of reference, my student is in her mid 40s and has been in the US for about three years.
I’m mainly looking for nonfiction—such as first-person accounts of modern, everyday South Korean life—but if you know of a great realistic novel set in modern-day South Korea I’m open to that as well. Thanks in advance!

(As an aside, this volunteer ESL tutoring experience has been one of the best things I’ve done in ages. I highly recommend it if there’s an organization in your community. You generally don’t need to speak a second language to do this—I don’t! I only hope my student is benefitting as much as I am!)
posted by bookmammal to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I used to recommend 'Doing Business in Korea' (1, 2, 3) to anyone who was going to live in the RoK, whether or not they were 'doing business' there. It was published in 2010 so it may now be showing a little age, but at the time it was the best guide to understanding contemporary South Korea for a western outsider. You might find the focus on business distracting, but it's very relevant in a nation that is in many ways a corporatocracy and the author goes far beyond business etiquette to explain the historical background of modern Korean culture.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:57 AM on October 1, 2018

Best answer: For a pop culture take, try Why Do Dramas Do That? from the Dramabeans writers. This might lead to some extremely entertaining conversations, especially if you or your conversation partner are into TV.
posted by asperity at 9:06 AM on October 1, 2018

Best answer: I lived in rural South Korea for three years, but didn't read Culture Shock until after my first year there. Suddenly so much about Korean culture made sense.

Also, Ask A Korean is always helpful and entertaining and has a deeeeeeeep archive.
posted by Brittanie at 11:35 AM on October 1, 2018

Best answer: For books, take a look at Seoul Selection's online bookshop. Sketches of Korea (if you can find it) and the novel Olympic Boulevard looks interesting (it's about the Korean American immigrant experience). Their Seoul Magazine is also worth checking out.

If you are up for films, KoreanFilm.org is a great resource.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:32 PM on October 1, 2018

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