Friday, March 15, 2013

A Fit of Koreaboo Pique

American news reporting on North Korea continues to astound me, and I mean that in the least generous way possible. Maybe in another life I would have been an international correspondent or writer covering the situation on the Korean peninsula, but—oh well. Despite the fact that I am probably preaching to the choir, I am still irritated enough that I feel compelled to provide you, dear faithful blog reader/Internet searcher who has stumbled across my blog/family member, with the means to educate yourselves if you so please! Here are Internet things dealing with the Koreas that I like:

  • Ask A Korean! - This is the best English language blog on South Korea, for fairly obvious reasons. (Those reasons are: it's written by a Korean who writes well.) If you are an expat blogger you probably follow him already (and if you don't, you should). While The Korean currently resides in Virginia, he keeps abreast of news and I see stories on his blog that I don't see anywhere else in English. He's also written a few well-researched and extensive series on assorted issues in South Korea: the presidents, the suicide rate, the financial crisis, etc.

    The downside is that The Korean is a lawyer, so he can get called away from blogging for long periods of time. He also is a bit of a food and language snob, so once in a while there are rants about the purity of Korean food or language or whatever that makes me roll my eyes, but he seems to know that he's being irrational.

    For those of you that care, The Korean also does not apologize or care about being flamingly, staunchly liberal.

    If you are at all curious about Korea, this is the blog to add to your feed.
  • NK News - I don't follow this one but I read it occasionally. Any article here will certainly provide more depth and insight than most American news programs.
  • Daily NK - What makes this news site exceptional is that it's run by North Korean defectors who still have ties back home. The result is not only real information instead of meaningless echo chamber speculation, but a more nuanced look into the country beyond the international image of  one crazy (or corrupt, or both) leader and a vague notion of hungry citizens. If you follow nothing else from this list, follow this one. The link here is to their English page; they publish in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese as well.
  • Justice for North Korea - The Facebook page for the charity my friend Breda works at. She's a grad student in international relations at Korea University, with a focus on North Korea and reunification, so Breda is not a stupid ignorant American when it comes to the issues. She (and maybe some of the other JFNK volunteers) maintain the Facebook page and regularly post links to assorted articles that are usually insightful and nuanced interpretations of events. (I say "usually" only because I will skim past articles now and then and not read them, so I can't vouch for EVERY SINGLE THING posted.) It's always in English, no worries.

Also there are some books that are good. Here are ones that I like:

  • Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader - It is definitely a bit outdated (last updated in 2010), but holy shit this tome on North Korea is fairly exhaustive and great and I will definitely be re-reading it in the near future to re-absorb things I missed the first time.
  • Korea's Place in the Sun - Bruce Cumings is basically the senior White Expat Expert on Korea, though not without controversy. This book was banned in South Korea for a while (I think by Chun Doo-hwan?) and at least one other Korean specialist has accused him of being a North Korean apologist, so there you go. I haven't read this one, but I did read his history of the Korean war, which I felt was very thorough and as impartial as possible.
  • This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood - This one is a short, easy read that sometimes suffers from language clunkiness (translated from Korean to French to English, as I recall) but is invaluable as a firsthand account of living in North Korea written by a North Korean. It's not Escape From Camp 14 which I can't bring myself to read, despite my interest in North Korea, because I KNOW it'll be depressing. If you feel the same way, this one is a good substitute.
Happy Pi Day! And to my friends still in Korea, happy white day!

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