The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: Hank Kim’s ‘Ask a Korean Dude’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Oct• 09•12

Veteran Korean journalist Kim Hyung-geun, who goes by the name Hank Kim, has written an informative guide to Korean customs and culture that worth reading before the visitor makes his or her first trip to Korea, Ask a Korean Dude: An Authoritative and Irreverent Guide to the Korea Experience (2012, ISBN 978-89-97639-00-7 03040). The book is not without its flaws, but overall stands as a pretty good introduction to Korea.

The most fascinating aspects to the book had to do with emotional issues. The discussion of jeong — a Korean social concept — as it relates to love and marriage was informative, and somewhat poignant. So was the comment regarding why some Korean women are reluctant to marry oldest sons (too much responsibility for family matters). There’s a lot of material on everyday things one sees on the street, like the proliferation of double barber pole establishments. Domestic matters are addressed as well, from metal chopsticks to the lack of flat sheets for bedding. The chapters devoted to Korean work and family responsibilities are fascinating.

There’s a lot packed into this 339 page book. The reader could quibble about occasional grammatical faux pas involving subject-pronoun disagreement (“when a patient wants… they must”), or about the antiques section on page 96. A little honesty regarding the overall quality of the antiquities shops in the Itaewon area would have been of value (most of those shops sell second-rate antiques from Europe and North America — not Asian goods). As an introduction to Korea, though, Hank Kim has done a pretty good job. We’d recommend buying a copy before your trip to Korea and taking it on the plane with you. It’s handsomely produced, with a plasticized cover that will wear well as you slip it in and out of your hand-bag or tote. You’ll finish it before the ride is over, and be sure to take notes in the blank pages at the end about items you’ll want to investigate on your own. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

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One Comment

  1. Narcis says:

    1: 호프- HOF, or Korean style drinking essbalithment. It’s not a place to come and mingle, but rather a place to relax with friends over beer, soju and anju (snacks to accompany your drinks)2: 모텔- Motel This one is directly translated from English to Korean. Love motels here are very common, but don’t have quite as bad a reputation as they have in America. 3: 노래방- Norebang, or singing room. Basically, karaoke for Korea. A place to sing your heart out with friends in your own private room. No Karaoke bar here. 4:담배- Dambae- Cigarettes. This one’s not important for me, but if you’re a smoker, this might be the first sign you will look for after stepping off the plane. If you see this sign outside a store, it means you can find your smokes within. 5: 부동산- Budongsan, Real Estate Office. While you might not need one while you’re in Korea, you’ll certainly see 6 on every city block. 6: 주차금지- Jucha-gumji, no parking. If you’re driving around, this one might be important to recognize. It often is accompanied by another white sign with a picture of a tow truck, so it might be a little more recognizable. 7: 주차장- Jucha-jang, parking lot. Similar to number 6, if you’re looking for a place to park, you’ll need to remember this one. Parking tends to be in unlikely, or hard to find places in Seoul, so keep your eyes peeled. 8: 보신탕- Boshintang, Dog meat soup. You’ll want to remember this one, so as not to wonder in by accident. In my neighborhood, these restaurants are scattered about with all the other restaurants, so not recognizing this one could lead to a rather unpleasant surprise if you happen to be one of those folks who aren’t looking to eat dog meat. And, no, you can’t choose your own dog, so the sound of dogs being slaughtered here won’t clue you in. 9: 미용실- Miyoungshil, hair salon. Everyone will need to get his or her hair cut at some point or another. If you have relatively easy to manage hair, there’s no reason not to go to a normal Korean salon. If you have curly hair or are looking for colors or perms, go to someone who is accustomed to foreigners. 10: 세탁- Setak, dry cleaners. Dry cleaning is cheap and convenient, so don’t hesitate to bring your clothes here if you want!

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