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Lifting the lid on life in South Korea
2015-05-08
By Xu Qin

IDEAS and culture have passed between China, South Korea, and Japan for centuries. But those who think South Korea is “just like China” or “just like Japan” are badly mistaken, says Daniel Tudor, author of the book “A Geek in Korea.”

Published by Tuttle Publishing last year, “Geek” reinvents the culture guide for the Internet age. Packed with articles and interviews, it covers all the touchstones of Korean culture — from Buddhism and Confucianism to the traditional arts of pottery and disciplines like taekwondo.

There are chapters on Internet catch phrases; personal relationships in modern society; business norms at work; and K-pop music and reality TV shows that are peculiarly Korean, with attention to the celebrities associated with them.

For visitors to South Korea, Tudor includes a mini-guide to his favorite neighborhoods in Seoul and other places of interest.

He also gives a list of popular myths about South Korea, in which he asserts that in South Korea, “Not everyone is into K-pop. Not everyone is worried about North Korea. And not all Korean food is going to blow your head off with an overload of red chili pepper.”

The British native first arrived in South Korea on the eve of the 2002 World Cup when South Korea played Italy. What he saw inspired him to return and work in Korea. He served as The Economist magazine’s Korean correspondent for three years, and he writes regular columns for Joongang Ilbo newspaper. Along the way, he has developed a great love and admiration for Korean culture and the people.

In the book, Tudor says Koreans are “the Irish of the East” because they are by far the biggest drinkers in East Asia. “Koreans are natural socialists who love drinking and partying, and yet are engaged in a vicious cycle of be-all-you-can-be competition against each other. It is a land of extremes, a complicated place of joy and tragedy, of fulfillment and frustration.”

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