*The Korean Mind: Understanding Contemporary Korean Culture*

This is a weird book, published primarily in Singapore, and somehow not fitting the canons of what people “are supposed to do” (NB: it is not at all racist, just bolder in its cultural generalizations than is currently in vogue).  Nonetheless I learned a great deal from the book, while taking some parts with a grain of salt.  Here is one interesting bit of many:

Since 1948 the government in North Korea has been dominated by people from North Hamkyong Province, where the late Il Sung Kim, founder of the North Korean regime, was active as a guerrilla leader during World War II.  Since that time people from the North Korean provinces of Hwanghae and Kangwon, which are the closest to South Korea, have been virtually banned from high government offices because they are considered untrustworthy and unfit.  In South Korea government has been controlled mostly by natives from North Kyongsang Province in the Youngnam (formerly Shilla) region.

…Ongoing competition and conflicts between people from Cholla and Kyongsang Provinces are said to be serious enough that they have significant negative impact on national politics, the economy, and life in general.

The author is Boye Lafayette de Mente, and he seems to know a lot about Korean bowing.  Do note the book is mainly about South Korea.  Reviewers, by the way, complain that there are significant mistakes in the Korean characters.  Recommended nonetheless, albeit with caveats, you can buy it here.


I've often wondered how much the United States government knew about Korea when it suddenly came into possession of South Korea in August 1945. In contrast, the U.S. prepared diligently since 1942 to occupy Japan: e.g., the government asked anthropologist Ruth Benedict to write her 1946 book "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" to prepare Americans for the postwar occupation.

There had been American missionaries in Korea from 1884, but the Japanese tried to squeeze them out after they took over in 1910, so I don't know how well informed they were by the 1940s.

My impression is that the U.S. government did an impressive job in Japan but found Korea rather baffling, with unfortunate consequences.

I have another Land-War-in-Asia theory: that American officials misunderstood Vietnam because it was easy to converse with French-speaking Vietnamese, but French speakers tended to have radically different views than Vietnamese who spoke only Vietnamese.

How about whites stay inside their country's borders instead of invading everyone else's with guns and nukes? Maybe the country is better served by Trump than Truman.

Ask the North Koreans if they would prefer to live in the protected South. Protected by those "whites" that you disparage.

He didn't disparage, he stated a fact. Whites have invaded other countries for less than noble reasons. Fact.

Ouch! Someone's feeling are hurt. So name me a race that hasn't "invaded" other countries.

The first volume of Allan R Millett’s history of the Korean War, ‘The War for Korea’, is probably the definitive work on the period.

"South Park is not at all racist, just bolder in its cultural generalizations than is currently in vogue."


'is not at all racist'

Neither is Steve Sailer. Nope, not at all.

CMG in the haus!

Boye came over during the occupation or not long after, and wrote a bunch of books, mostly about Japan. Passed on a couple years ago. Another guy from the period was jack Seward. Both had good insights, neither were academics, and had on-the-ground, up-front-and personal experience. Not so sure about Boye, but Seward had good (Japanese) language skills (was an army trained linguist), which helped.
There were some excellent books about actual on-the ground conditions in Korea during the Rhee and Park periods written by missionaries and a few wives of military or diplomatic people (and some bad ones too, goes without saying). I can't recommend titles because I don't off-hand recall them and they are way out of print anyway (but could probably be found in US military base or USIS libraries (and similar institutions) if you happen to be in Korea or Japan, which is where I first found them back in the day.

From the book link:
“ Boye Lafayette De Mente first went to Korea in 1949 as a member of a U.S. military intelligence agency, and was involved with the country for more than six decades as a student, journalist, editor, lecturer, and writer. He is the author of more than thirty books including Survival Korean, The Korean Way in Business, and Etiquette Guide to Korea. ”

True he spent some time in Korea. Everyone stationed in Japan did (he vice versa). He worked in Tokyo. Most of his numerous books were about Japan. The Amazon page emphasizes his Korea books because the page is describing one of his Korea books, the algo assumes browsers will be more interested in other Korea books than Japan etc books.

Jack Seward! I haven't heard that name in a long while. Yeah, his Japanese language books were entertaining to me in the late 1970s studying the language, albeit already a bit fusty and behind the times. I have used his bar stunt of asking Japanese if they can write the kanji for apple in Japanese, which nobody can.

His tales of Japan right after the war are fun, but for a reality check, Linda E Austin's self published Kindle book about her mother's life in a town just north of Tokyo during that period shows how primitive life was.

Thanks, I think I will order "Cherry Blossoms in Twilight."

Me too! Hurrah for the MR commenters, I hadn't heard of any of these people or their books before. Actually I'd probably read a description of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight but probably would not have been interested just based on a description.

Conflict disclosure: I loved "Cherry Blossoms in Twilight," and I think you will too, but full disclosure: I live in the city where Ms. Austin's mom came from, so it was especially interesting and surprising to me to read about my own station's business district, 13 minutes walk from my house, and how different it was back then.

The latter part of the book is a bittersweet tale of her mom being swept away by a U.S. GI and ending up in the U.S.

On the whole the book is a wonderful and touching example of a daughter taking the time to talk to her mom about her life story and committing it to book form to preserve the family's history.

I hope the phenomenon of Hwabyeong is discussed.

Does the book say anything about the suicide epidemic among Korean celebrities? If I had millions of dollars, I wouldn't kill myself, I'd get even at my harassers and hire some ex-Mossad Black Cube operatives.

The book is old. Korean celebrities didn't kill themselves back in the day. Actually there weren't many Korean celebs then and no social media to drive them to suicide or give them the means whereby they could be shamed to death through self-inflicted short-sightedness. Nothing wrong with oral sex, but don't let someone film you doing it unless you have a plan to monetize it (the tried and true Paris Hilton strategy).

Concerning the issue of misspellings, my personal experience tells me that the problem could have come from the editing or typesetting process. I wouldn't automatically scorn the book based on hangul misspellings (if that's what they are rather than non-standard spellings). On the other hand, most of the book is describing idealized, formulaic, Confucian behavior. Despite that, it could be useful (at least back in the day). Looking, acting, dressing, and speaking like a "gentleman", or "scholar" could take you a long way in South Korea.

The regional animosities and stereotypes that Boye mentioned were very conspicuous in South Korea and definitely impacted national politics to at least 1996 (after which I have not been paying close attention).

Amazon shows a publish date or 2018. Are you saying it's a reprint?

He passed on in 2017.

I think it would be really lonely and isolating to be a rich celebrity. Your main hope is if you have family that are supportive, as well as friends from high school or college who pre-date your celebrity, as well as competent management and legal advisors who are not affected by your celebrity.

Otherwise, you cannot go out in public in any sort of free and normal way. Traveling is difficult (the recent LAX VIP terminal plus corporate charters make that easier for Angelenos, if expensive, but not necessarily on the destination end).

Many celebrities relocate to foreign countries where they are less known, e.g. Brad Pitt to France and Japanese actors and musicians to Hawaii.

Everyone you hire, housekeeper, pool guy, driver, bodyguard, security consultant, has an angle. Even otherwise nice, normal people go gaga in the presence of a celebrity or a rich person and try to think how to profit from the relationship.

Most of your staff will be able to make more money by calling TMZ than from what you pay them, even if you pay them well for their services.

How about romantic relationships? You are stuck with others in your same profession and predicament, or with bar girls you meet a la Nicholas Cage. Nice, normal people are going to pass on you.

Boye Lafayette de Mente? That can’t be a real name.

He was from Missouri.

He served in Korea under Major ____________ de Coverley.

My vague impression is that US Army men have tended down through history to have unusual names.

Regional divisions in politics have dominated American politics too. The State of Virginia had a stranglehold on American government following America's independence. I suppose that makes sense: Virginia was not only the home of the most important founders, it was the most populous state. Indeed, partisan politics arose from the clash of North and South, Adams in the North and Madison/ Jefferson in the South. Adams's party, the Federalist party, was demonized by Madison, Jefferson, et al., with the Federalists accused of treason (a conspiracy to return America to the British monarchy). It's no coincidence that the capital was relocated to the State of Virginia rather than remain in Philadelphia. Here we are over 200 years later and the divisions between North and South continue to dominate our politics, with the South maintaining dominance up until today (with only brief periods of Northern dominance). Of course, it was largely by design, the compromises made in Philadelphia all but guaranteeing that dominance. Now, the political divisions in America have entered a new phase, one that still is regional but also religious and racial, with white evangelicals having the strongest bond with one party, the Republican Party, regardless of where the Party's leadership may come from. Is it a good development that American politics may be divided for reasons other than geography?

Good comment up until the last two sentences, which sound like the democratic narrative.

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