Saturday, September 02, 2006

What I'm reading

Lately I've been reading NTC's Dictionary of Korea's Business and Cultural Code Words by Boyé Lafayette De Mente. The book is organized by important Korean words (in Romanized alphabetical order) with accompanying cultural notes and explanations. It goes into Korean history, current culture, and business practices.

It's not really a resource for people learning Korean, as it's mostly in English and the Romanization is quite idiosyncratic, but it's got a lot of interesting information, especially when it comes to the root causes of why Koreans act and think the way they do, or why the culture is shaped the way it is. There are times when the author (whose nationality I'm not sure of) sounds almost like a Korean cultural chauvinist. But when he discusses Neo-Confucianism philosophy and the Chosun Dynasty, he comes close to describing Neo-Confucianism's effects on the Korean people as downright evil. It's Neo-Confucianism that he blames for Korea's relative lack of development prior to the beginning of the Japanese colonial era.

One flaw is that the book is written like it's a reference book, but I cannot imagine anyone actually using it as one. So I've been reading it sequentially, but it's slow going and I can only read a few pages a day.

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