Culture and Customs of Korea
"Culture and Customs of Korea goes some considerable way towards filling an important gap in the literature on Korea and will be a welcome addition to the collection of anyone interested in Korean history, culture, contemporary issues and, perhaps most importantly, the Korean psyche....this book provides a valuable and effective introduction to the study of all things Korean, and is a must for anyone thinking of visiting the country, whether as a tourist or on business."-History, The Journal of The Historical Association
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Useful background information on many topics
Courses: AP World History, AP US History, World Cultures, Global Issues, World Religions
Warrior Run High School, Turbotville, PA
Culture and Customs of Korea, written by Donald Clark, presents a through review of the various aspects of Korean life, from both a historical and modern lens. The nine chapters within the book address history of the Korean people, religion, philosophy, art, literature, performing arts, daily life, urban and rural living, gender, marriage, women’s issues, and a final chapter on future developments. The book contains black and white photographs throughout, in addition to a glossary and index. A brief timeline chronicling Korean history from 2333 B.C. through 2000 A.D. spans the first five pages prior to chapter one. The text is well organized, and the author provides thorough explanation of Korean vocabulary and appropriate examples when necessary.
The introductory chapter begins with basic information regarding the Korean War and its aftermath, including more recent demographic and geographic information and a modern map of the country. Korea’s place in East Asia and an overview of the nation’s history make up most of the balance of the chapter. Chapter two, “Thought and Religion,” highlights the evolution of the many religious influences throughout Korean history, including Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity, which have long been important. The conclusion of this chapter addresses “Kimilsungism” in North Korea. The third and forth chapters present traditional and modern Korean artistic expressions, such as, stone-carving, literature, documentary literature, poetry (sijo), p’ansori epics, the advent of Hangul (Korean alphabet), and performing arts like percussion, puppet plays and cinema. Chapter five, “Daily Life and Folkways” gives a glimpse of family life, and the layout and organization of a traditional Korean home with its ŏndol heating system. Major life events from birth to death, Korean food and drink customs, traditional clothing, and festivals and holidays were also discussed. The sixth and seventh chapters contrast the traditional life experience in a Korean village based on rice cultivation, as compared to modern, urban living in a city like Seoul. Chapter six uses the village of Poksu and the Cho family as a case study into historic village life and family structure. Additionally, chapter seven explains the inter-workings of the modern Korean educational system, the key to personal advancement, and the interesting history of student protest movements. Gender, marriage and women’s issues are presented in chapter eight. Using Poksu village, the author notes the preference for male children and other traditional stereotypes regarding women in society, followed by modern women’s issues, including role models, as well as, past and present practices regarding courtship and marriage. The final chapter brings to questions the issue of reunification between the North and South, Korea’s relationship with its neighbors, and the world.
Culture and Customs of Korea is a book most suited for the middle school or high school library as a reference resource. Teachers who need more in-depth knowledge of one or more of these aspects of Korean society would find this text useful. It provided informative, enjoyable background reading regarding a range of topics prior to a visit to South Korea, which proved very helpful in understanding many aspects of Korea’s culture and customs.