geek in korea was written by daniel tudor. an insightful and fun to read illustrated encyclopedia, the book is a comprehensive eye-opener that gives the reader complex context for most aspects of present day south korea. if everything you know about the country is psy’s gangam style or if you would simply like to find out more about this asian rising star, you need to read this!
i picked a few of the most interesting aspects for you.
* confucianism, buddhism, koreanized christianity and shamanism co-habit as religions. the confucianist moral philosophy that lent great importance to social harmony and hierarchy generated south korea’s super competitive culture.
most people hope to be a samsung man. namely, to get a stable, well paid job at one of the big corporations. they are called chaebol and there are six of them: samsung, lotte, hyundai, lg and sk. the fierce competition, the aging population, the expensive education and the one-kid-per-family lead to high pressure which raises the suicide rate.
competitiveness also appears outside the professional life.
* consumerism is high because it shows you are well off. beauty standards are very exact. have you heard about the v-line (the right shape of the face) or the s-line (the right shape of a woman’s body)? well, apart from those, a small face and double lids are also preferred. women go through 12 step daily beauty routines. the expectations are equally high for the men. you guessed it, that’s why they are the country who gets the most plastic surgery in the world.
* it may sound a little scary but there are also wonderful aspects of the culture. for instance, south koreans have a culture of sharing and individualism is frowned upon. you never eat or drink alone. and they do drink quite a bit. luckily, they have the hangover drinks that can help the morning after. makgeolli, soju and many other kinds of traditional drinks are currently part of some revival of all things traditional.
* also, there is jeong – the invisible hug (the warmth between people and mutual sacrifice). that concept means that you will make exceptions for your own for the greater good.
* soko is super connected. internet is widely available.
* gaming is big in korea. so big they have game addicted kids who go to gaming rehab organized by the state.
* cool korea is defined by the korean new wave: tv, films, k-pop, cosmetics and, well, plastic surgery.
i gave you just a glimpse. to get the whole picture, you need to read the book. it’s available now at a great price.
ps: congratulations, daniel: your book was a pleasure to read!
photo credits: tuttle publishing