Love in the time of Korea

Before we delve into the delicious details of excursions and adventures; we must start at the very beginning. What is the beginning you ask? The beginning to all adventures; the idea… the need and desire to travel. When we have this initial idea to go somewhere else; a place that captures our fancy, how do we get to know about this place? We may have read about it, a friend might have mentioned something in passing, we perhaps heard something on the radio or saw something on the television.

It just captures our fancy. So in order to expand on this fanciful idea, what is it that do we do next? Do we just pack our bags and head to the airport or train station? No..! We conduct some research. We look for information and surf the net or perhaps something more tangible. We turn to books! There is nothing like a good book to educate us about our place of interest. You can imagine my dismay walking into the many bookshops that peppered the city and hardly finding anything on Korea.

To fuel my first trip I had only to turn to the Korean lonely planet guide for much needed inspiration. There was little else.

I have now acquired quite a library of literature on this subject and wanted to share with you the books in my current possession and how I acquired them…..

My Corean Collection

1) Hamel’s Journey and a description of the Kingdom of Korea ~ Hendrik Hamel

This is Hamels account of his stay or capture rather in Korea. This is considered to be the first western written account of Korea. I picked this up when I was in Busan

2) The Koreans; who they are, what they want and where their future lies? ~ Michael Breen

This was one of the first books about Korea that I picked up. I got through Amazon. I don’t know what drew me to the title. I guess I thought it could enlighten me about the Korean mind. It is interesting although a little dry to say the least.

3)Korea, A walk through the land of miracles ~ Simon Winchester

The first book, along with The Koreans, that came through Amazon. The only difference is that I actually finished reading this one. I love the way Winchester writes about the history and the adventures he encounters along the way. Although there are very few pictures and the ones that are in the book are a little outdated.


4) Korea; Lonely Planet guide

What more can I say about this. There are other travel guides such as insight that write about Korea. I have always been a fan of the Lonely Planet series since my first purchase on Romania back in 1999. I got this edition from my favourite book store that no longer exists. The Pan Bookstore on Fulham Road. I was lucky, I had obtained it during the closing down sale at 50 % off. Up until then, I had been referring to the library version!


5)Korea Old and New; a history ~ Carter J Eckert, Ki-baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson, Edward W. Wagner

What can I say.. it isn’t a novel and this purchase took place whilst working for Waterstones. So I acquired something of a discount. I wanted to know more about the Korean history. The only thing is I use this more for reference rather than a cosy stay at home and read book

6) The memoirs of Lady Hyeyong ~ JaHyun Kim Haboush

I first laid eyes on this book in Waterstones Gower Street and was hooked ever since. The only trouble was I never picked it up at the time and spent years practically (okay it was 9 months) trying to track this book down. I did not have the sense at the time to jot down the name. I only remembered that it had a wonderful red cover and it was the autobiographical writings of a crown princess in 18th Century Korea. So romantic! I was finally able to locate it on Amazon. Ah Amazon.. where would I be without you?

7) The Red Queen ~ Margaret Drabble

It appears I was not the only one to have fallen in love with Lady Hyegyong. The English author Margaret Drabble had too read the autobiographical account and decided to create a fiction story out of it. The Red Queen is her version.

8) Meeting Mr Kim or how I went to Korea and learned to love Kimchi ~ Jennifer Barclay

The most up-to-date modern western account of Korea travel book going! Although I would not say it covers absolutely everything about Korea only the surface, it is quite a fun read and Barclay manages to capture an essence of Korea in her quirky style

9) Human Decency ~ Gong Ji Young

My first translated novel from Korean to English which I picked up in Busan.


10) May all beings be happy ~ Beop Jeong

Something I picked up in Busan as well. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of English books about Korea that I decided to go for something a little different. Something that showed me the essence of Korea, rather then tell me about Korean culture and history. I decided on this book about Buddhist Master Beop Jeong’s collected sayings on life. It is quite spiritual and refreshing to read

11) Teach yourself Korean

Need I write anything more? How I taught myself to read hangul.

12)Kuka the poems of Choi Hyun Suk

Picked up in a second hand book store near Gloucester Road, I got this for my birthday, it was a nicely presented hard back edition in a case by a Korean Poet with the poems being written in Japanese, Korean and English.

13) Korea – Land of the Morning Calm (coffee top book) ~ Craig J Brown

This is the worst purchase in my collection. I picked this up in Thailand, being so overjoyed to see a nice hard back coffee table book about Korea. It is terribly written, although it has nice photos but inspires me to write as I know I could do a better job.

I have ordered Korea and her neighbours by Isabelle Bird and can’t wait to get my hands on that book. I will do a feature on this book next week alongside the UN memorial Park in Busan. That however brings me up-to-date with my collections of books on Korea. As you can see, it is not an easy subject to come by in the UK. So you can imagine my joy having recently discovered the Korean Cultural Centre. See blog Countess’ Corean Weblog for further info! They have a lot of books on Korea and there I plan to stay and conduct my research into this country.

Toodles for now!

One thought on “Love in the time of Korea

  1. love the book recommendations and the brief recount of your journey………… have visited ‘the land of the morning calm’ many times and have still to fully evaluate what it means to me as a westerner to do so. that said, dipping into the nearest buddhist temple always helps me to refocus.great opening blog

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