Daniel Tudor’s Korea: The Impossible Country – a review

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Unlike many other historians Daniel Tudor’s Korea: The Impossible Country is not overly technically dense. Instead he manages to mix terse economic and political information with less daunting accounts of Korean cinema, under appreciated rock music, romance and of course Koreans’ love of drinking. Not only is the book more digestible, but it presents a much broader picture than similar historical accounts of South Korea. Daniel Tudor depicts a clear account of political development through emerging democratization post Korean war, repressive dictatorships during the 60’s and 70’s to finally real democratization in the late 80’s and 90’s with the symbolic opening of Korea with the 2002 World Cup. At the other end of the spectrum, he vividly describes urban and street culture, university life, corporate culture, family life and the intricacies of Korean relationships.

There are perceptive critiques of Korean culture, yet, in the main Daniel praises Koreans in their capacity to work hard, enjoy themselves and be capable of deep emotional expression, as he explains in the chapters around Jeong, Heung and Han. He also imparts the same feeling when describing the emotional honesty displayed by Korean actors in films that have become internationally renown.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

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