Chong Tese; translated from Japanese into Korean by Han Young; Renaissance Publishing: 207 pp., 12,000 won
There are a number of Japanese-Korean footballers playing in Japan or overseas clubs. Uniquely for a footballer of his background, Chong Tese he has chosen to play for North Korea’s national team and drew much attention from the South Korean press when he played for the Stalinist state at the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Brazil. The Korean press nicknamed him “the People’s Rooney.”
The third-generation Japanese-Korean first published an autobiography in Japanese in 2011. The Korean version was published last week.
On the cover of the book is a large photo of Chong weeping ahead of the match against Brazil upon hearing the North Korean anthem “Aegukga.”He said that those were “tears of joy” for finally reaching his dream of representing his homeland on the international stage.
Chong, currently plays for FC Koln, and was born in Nagoya, Japan. His father retains a South Korean passport, which makes the footballer a South Korean by nationality. But because of his upbringing in pro-North Korean schools in Japan, Chong has embraced North Korea as his homeland personally and professionally.
Since 2010, there hasn’t been much news about him in the local press. For those who have followed his career since then, the book is a gripping read. The 27-year-old has developed into a charming athlete with potential for international stardom. He is fluent in Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and German.
For a young person, he seems very mature and sure of himself. The book concludes with what he wants to do as a footballer for North Korea and for increasing awareness of the plight of Japanese-Koreans.
— DO JE-HAE
Kim Heung-sook; Seoul Selection: 180 pp; 9,500 won
Written by veteran author, radio host and Korea Times columnist Kim Heung-sook, “Forest” is a poignant selection of unadorned poems, which invites readers into a world of self-reflection and thought.
Inspired by a forest where the author sought refuge from the burdens of daily life, the 80 or so poems cover a range of topics, from love to loneliness, from hope to sorrow. Interlaced among the simple poems of five to six lines is Kim’s twinkling humor and underlying contemplation on the current state of the world.
A unique aspect of “Forest” is that the author wrote both English and Korean versions of her poems. By doing so, she has been able to preserve the true nuances and cadences of the meanings behind the words.
“Forest” is also Kim’s call for the poet within each of us. As she says in the preface, “This book, then, is a letter from one poet to all the poets of the world. I hope those who receive it will build as many of their own ‘temples of words’ as possible, for writing poems is one of the most beautiful ways of saving the world from becoming a darker place.”
— HAN YOON-JI
Secrets behind Korea’s neighborhood bakery
Choi Se-ho, Jeong Jin-hee; Georeum Publishing: 204 pp., 12,800 won
Last year, Korea was embroiled in a war of bakeries, between the independent and the ubiquitous chains. “But what is wrong with going to the more affordable latter option with a trustworthy trademark?” one may ask.
A baker and a TV writer answer that question through this book, explaining why all bread is not created equal — literally — and why health concerns should make you think twice before making your next purchase.
The difference lies in economies of scale, the authors explain. In order to distribute the same bread everywhere in mass quantities, the chains have to cut corners in freshness; their bread and cakes, made sometimes even a month or two before they hit shelves, cannot be as fresh as the small-scale neighborhood outlets, according to the logic. And if it isn’t fresh, it cannot taste as good.
While self-explanatory to many consumers of the West, this argument has hitherto gained little publicity among the Korean population. This succinct book is a positive step towards raising public awareness about the choice of food consumption and why health concerns should be given precedence over everything else.
— KWAAK JE-YUP
100 Korean actors’ monologues— Monostory season 1
The Seoul Theater Association; Dulnyouk Publishers: 308pp., 13,000 won
The Seoul Theater Association organized a special event to mark the 33rd Seoul Theater Festival in April — a performance of 100 famous Korean artists including Kwon Byung-gil, Park Jung-ja and Oh Kwang-rok. They gave a total of eight performances in Gwanghwamun and Daehangno in Seoul throughout April and May.
This book is a reflection of the performances delivered by legends in the world of performing arts and includes a list of the artists’ favorite monologues and pictures of them on stage. Of the performers, those older than 40 talk about both their life and career. Readers will also find a humane aspect of the stars that has not previously been seen.
— RACHEL LEE