The Korean does not know what book you should read

Here is a public service announcement, because the Korean constantly receives this type of question:

From this blog, you will not get an answer for a question like this one:  "I want to learn about XYZ aspect of Korea. Could you please recommend some books on it?"

It is a perfectly legitimate question, but one that the Korean is utterly unequipped to answer. Here is the problem: the Korean never reads any book about Korea in English. He learns about Korea by reading . . . wait for it . . . books and articles written in Korean language, written by Korean people. Unless he wants to learn something specific that involves a non-Korean perspective (e.g. U.S. perspective on Korean War,) there is little reason for him to read about Korea in English. When it comes to learning about Korea, Korean-language sources are always more accurate, more nuanced, more vivid and more contemporary. Given the abundance of excellent books about Korea in Korean language, the Korean simply cannot be bothered to read any book about Korea in English.

In fact, this language issue is something that mildly peeves the Korean, because many of the so-called "experts" on Korea actually cannot speak or read a lick of Korean. If a person who could not understand a word of Spanish claimed herself to be a Latin America specialist, she would be laughed out of the room. Yet that is the situation we have with Korea -- a lot of people who claim to know a lot about Korea cannot even decipher what Koreans are saying. Consequently, a lot of analysis about Korea -- especially if the analysis about a slightly more involved topic -- often miss the mark completely.

Of course, there are extraordinary people who manage to overcome the language barrier by the sheer force of astute on-the-ground observation and personal networking with important players in Korea. (Don Kirk, a veteran journalist who covered nearly every important event in modern South Korean history, comes mind.) But in most cases, the equation works out exactly how one would expect to work out:  if you can't understand Korean, your knowledge about Korea will always be limited, and often erroneous.

All of this is a long way of saying:  don't come here for book recommendation, because you won't find it. Sorry.

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