In preparing for an upcoming workshop on Korean culture, I grabbed my go-to guide for all things Korean: Korea Unmasked: In Search of the Country, the Society and the People by Won-bok RHIE. I think have used this book for every Korea-related work I have ever done. Because of its utility, clarity, interesting presentation in its insights of Korean society and people, I declare it to be my favourite book about Korea of all time.
Korea Unmasked presents an honest and insightful look at Korean society and its people. It covers everything from from historical roots to politics and economy in modern society and even Korean relations with neighbouring countries. It also discloses the character, spirit and psychological makeup of the Korean people. It is one the few books about Korean culture that actually explains “why” things are the way they are in Korean society and opens the door to overall understanding.
And now for the clincher: this book is not the lead-heavy academic work you might assume. It is actually graphic non-fiction. You read correctly, it is a COMIC BOOK! Rhie happens to be one of Korea’s most famous cartoonists, and while most of his other books have not been translated, he has written several on the topics of the American character as well as the world of wine.
While comics and graphic novels have their solid place in North America, Manhwa (the term for print comics in Korean), has a firm
place in popular culture there. I find that one of the nicest things about this book is that Rhie expresses his own “Koreanness” not only through the content of the book but also via the delivery of it in graphic style.
So, dear readers, I invite you to share your own favourite books about Korea below… hope to hear from you!