My favorite things Korea

1. Movie.  If I had to pick one, I might opt for Old Boy.  The deeper point is that you should watch them all.  If it is a Korean movie, and you can get your hands on it (as a non-Korean), it is probably excellent.  This is a remarkable regularity and a good selection filter for exploring.  This list is one place to start but not to stop.  The Host is a fun spoof of monster movies and Shiri is a gripping thriller.  Watch any Korean movie which Scott Sumner recommends.  Even some of the clunkier Korean movies, such as The Housemaid, are better than most Hollywood fare.

2. Actress: Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica, and there is also Shin Eun-kyung.

3. Actor: John Cho, of Harold and Kumar fame.  It is unlikely he is the best.

4. Video artist: Nam June Paik.

5. Classical pianist: Kun-Woo Paik, I find he is better represented on disc (Ravel, Liszt, Scriabin) than on YouTube.  For violinist there is Sarah Chang, YouTube here.

6. Economist: Ha-Joon Chang comes to mind, although I disagree with most of his work.  Here is my podcast interview with him.

7. Poet: Ko Un is the only one I have read.  It is hard to judge any poet outside of his or her native language, but I definitely had the feeling something was there.

8. Novelist: Kyung-sook Shin is alas the only one I can name.

9. Movie, set in: Korean movies aside, you might consider Pork Chop Hill.

10. Painter: Contemporary art is a rich vein for South Korea.  This catalog is one good place to start.

The bottom line: This is an impressive showing and it is improving rapidly.  The killer categories is movies.


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