Dreaming Clown: Kim Myung-gon’s Autobiography
Kim Myung-gon; Yoorichang: 296 pp., 14,000
Former culture minister Kim Myung-gon has published an autobiography, elaborating on his various experiences with the arts and government. His most recent artistic endeavor was producing “Endless Voyage,” an upcoming performance mixing ballet and traditional Korean dance.
Kim is a renowned ‘pansori’ (traditional Korean opera) performer, actor and producer as well as former president of the National Theater of Korea. The late former President Roh Moo-hyun appointed him culture minister in 2006.
But Kim is still mostly known for his role in the film “Seopyeonje” by filmmaker Im Kwon-taek in the early 1990s. Kim also wrote the scenario for the film.
“I have done a lot of work in theater and in film since then, but they are mostly overshadowed by the role I played in ’Seopyeonje.’ The character of Yu-bong and I shared the same sense of alienation, pain and failures as pansori artists, so it was a role that I could completely sympathize with,” he said.
He recollects his ties with the administrations of Roh and the late Kim Dae-jung, both of whom were ardent patrons of the arts with a keen in interest in traditional Korean culture.
During Kim Dae-jung’s presidency, Kim led the National Theater of Korea and the former President and his wife Lee Hee-ho attended performances there. Kim calls the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient “a president with astonishing cultural knowledge and the best audience member I have ever met.”
— DO JE-HAE
Michelle Obama: In Her Own Words
Michelle Obama; Translated from English to Korean by Kim Hyun-joo; JoonAng Books: 311 pp., 13,000 won
Michelle Obama is the Unites States’ first African-American first lady, a fashion icon and a big political presence. As an attorney, wife and mother of two children, she often calls herself “mom in chief.”
Now readers can learn more about her in this book, translated by the editor of Cosmopolitan Korea — though some readers may be disappointed since this is not an autobiography or essay but a compilation of quotes by Obama from various media sources.
Nevertheless the remarks and excerpts of speeches by the first lady are organized thematically. On fashion, for example, she says “You can get some good stuff online,” which many shoppers who swear by Internet shopping malls may find endearing. It also reveals how her husband, Barack Obama, is an ordinary guy at home who fails to put his dirty socks in the laundry bin.
The Korean version offers Obama’s views as more of a self-guide on boosting self-esteem as it emphasizes how she was able to overcome fears of her husband’s presidential nomination having an adverse affect on her family’s privacy or inviting racial discrimination.
— LEE HYO-WON
Inventing Popular Culture: From folklore to globalization
John Storey; Translated from English to Korean by Yu Yong-min; Taehaksa: 216pp., 15,000 won each, 9,500 won each
John Storey is a professor of cultural studies and director of the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland. He traces back the conception of popular culture to the 18th century when so-called intellectuals started expressing definitions of popular art.
The new concept diverged into two genres — folk culture based on rural traditions and mass culture of the urban laborers — throughout the beginning of the 20th century. Over eight chapters, the author examines the history and identity of popular culture including its place within globalization, intellectualism and consumerism.
— NOH HYUN-GI
Kang Soo-jung; Paperbook: 240 pp., 15,000 wonI
Former announcer Kang Soo-jung has published a book on food and restaurants in Tokyo.
Kang knows something about food, having hosted television show “Taste vs. Taste,” which introduced local delicacies and famous restaurants, and currently runs a blog titled Foodfighter (www.foodfighter.co.kr). She lived in Tokyo for a year and a half and decided to share her eating experiences while there.
“Delicious Tokyo” covers her visits to traditional Japanese restaurants featuring sushi, tempura and kaiseki including important details. Sushi Saitom, given three stars by Michelin, for example, has only seven seats, while tempura restaurant Yokota has been running for more than 31 years and Esaki uses local organic ingredients.The writer focuses not only on Japanese cuisine but also introduces French and Italian restaurants.
— KWON MEE-YOO