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The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  537 ratings  ·  89 reviews

By now, everyone in the world knows the song “Gangnam Style” and Psy, an instantly recognizable star. But the song’s international popularity is no passing fad. “Gangnam Style” is only one tool in South Korea’s extraordinarily elaborate and effect
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Picador
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Amar Pai
Breezy, cheesy, wheezy... it's an OK book but due to the memoir-ish nature of it, doesn't actually get into the details of Korean Cool as much as you'd expect. I mean she does get into those details, but it's all presented through this lens of personal experience that I didn't find that compelling. The whole thing just felt a little too light weight, e.g. it annoyed me that there's a chapter on "The Birth of Irony" where she argues that irony is only present in wealthy countries and Korea had to ...more
Kristian Bjørkelo
I was taken completely by surprise by The Birth of Korean Cool. I don't know what I actually expected, as one with only a passing interest in Korean pop culture. I've seen some Korean reality shows, followed some bands and drama. Mostly for the heck of it, and as a result of a general curiosity. And while I have grown critical of what I suspected was the machinations of a well oiled fabrication process, I lacked the cultural and historical context to fully comprehend it. Euny Hong has rectified ...more
a little faith
I’ve been a fan of South Korean Entertainment for around a decade and like many others around the world I’ve seen it gain popularity steadily, then rapidly and now exponentially. However trying to understand a culture through media and TV alone is unsafe, naïve and short-sighted. Euny Hong provides not only the background to South Korea’s seemingly rags to riches story but her own personal musings about how it came about for those not inclined to believe in fate.

Euny Hong’s writing style is elo
I won a copy of this through Gooreads First Reads

I really hope Hong plans to write more books in the future. Her writing makes you feel like she is sitting across the table from you and speaking to directly to you. There were only a few spots were I felt like I was actually reading a non-fiction book. Besides explaining how Korean Pop Culture has spread through out the world, she also (lightly) touches on S. Korea's economy right after the Korean War, the social changes the country has seen in j
Barry Welsh
Journalist Euny Hong’s highly praised and much discussed new book is part memoir and part socio-cultural investigation into South Korea’s rise to international cultural prominence through Hallyu – The Korean Wave. In her introduction she laments that “Korea was not cool in 1985.” 1985 being the year when, as a fully Americanized 12 year old Korean-American girl, she was uprooted by her family from Chicago and taken to Seoul. Initially excited to escape America and leave behind classmates who wou ...more

From the title I expected this to be a little more research-y. It's definitely more memoir-ish. Which isn't a bad thing, I enjoyed the way Euny weaved her personal experiences in with a description of South Korea in the (roughly) last 30 years.
Reading this book really did feel like sitting and talking to a friend(as one reviewer noted), listening to her snarky, but informed opinions on South Korea.

It's an entertaining way to relay information and facts; SK has been invaded 400 times over the past 5000 years but only participated in the Vietnam war, you don't want to corner someone who has a generational build up of Han and SK's may not be able to sing or dance but they WILL do that better than their arch enemies(Japanese)!

I have to say at the outset, that I found this book a thought provoking and interesting read. The author's sense of humor and personal stories alone make the book worth reading.

That being said, I found plenty of nits ripe for picking. I think most of them stemmed simply from a lack of detailed research on some of the topics. Some areas of Korean history that represent deep emotional scars are treated almost whimsically, and from the point of view of the author, someone that grew up in the lap of
Satkar Ulama
I am not a fan of Korean pop culture. The only Korean drama I've ever seen was Winter Sonata. And it only lasted for two episodes.

But I am a fan of cultural studies.

In this witty and informative book by Hong, you will discover the many stories behind Korean wave or so-called Hallyu that you enjoy through Korean drama series or Korean music outspreading everywhere. Apparently, Korean old cultural practices have formed a strong belief that most of its people bring into their daily lives as well as
Lady Jayme,
First, watch this:

The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture by Euny Hong.

If you own a Samsung phone or television, have listened to a K-pop song or watched a K-drama, you may have wondered how it is that South Korea has crept up on Japan as the go-to Asian nation for our electronics and pop culture. As recently as 1965, South Korea’s GDP was less than that of Ghana. Today, South Korea is the world’s fifteenth largest economy
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I have been seeing more and more Korean pop culture in the world, and personally, I love K-dramas and K-pop. These facts made me really interested in reading this book. I did not know exactly what to expect when I started reading this book and it mostly lived up to what I imagined. I loved reading about the differences in Korean culture and their pop-culture as the book progressed, and it made me think about the way that their govern ...more
I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Very interesting cultural insights, and the author was funny, and provided recent examples that made it easy to follow (ie. 'cute singer equivalent to Harry Styles' etc etc).

This book covered the Hallyu wave and how it came about, touching on the strategies the Korean govt comes up with to boost the economy and also Korean culture. I don't watch K drama or soaps so this was enlightening for me. (Yes but to take everything with a pinch of salt too.)

Shocking facts:
What is K
Jedi Kitty
Easy, quick and very light read. Oddly written in an almost stream-of-conscious style. Weird for nonfiction. Author trips from one subject to the next seemlessly, so it was easy to read it all in one sitting. The content is all a bit of a blur. About half the content was interesting to me, but most of it wasn't new. She does not dig deep into Korean culture- but skims the most popular bands/tv shows/movies/etc. I'd heard of them all before. (Except the Kim Sisters, who are quite cool!) Often I k ...more
Uwe Hook
This book is about the ascent of the South Korean culture, extending from the lows of the 1980's to the latest explosion of Korean culture throughout the world. KPop, Psy's Gangnam Style, and the widespread popularity of Korean dramas are just some of the hot topics that Hong covers in an engaging and interesting way. Hong was born in the U.S. then moved to Korea in the 1980's. This gives her a somewhat unique point-of-view, as she describes how the government of South Korea focuses many of its ...more
The Birth of Korean Cool (Euny Hong) is about the rise of Korean culture on a global scale, and it really put a lot of Kpop, movies, academics, etc. in perspective.

Granted, the author might be somewhat biased. She's speaking mainly from personal experience, and she had an obvious disdain for many Korean customs and traditions. But the way she provided the cultural and historical context for Korea's relationship with the rest of the world was very informative. The way she put together quotes from
I want to go and stay in South Korea next year so I figured it would benefit me to learn about more about the country before I go!

This book is about how (South) Korea went from one of the world's poorest countries to one of its richest in the space of about 50 years. Hong argues that this success is largely a result of the Korean government's investment in pop culture - K-pop, K-dramas, k-movies, video games - as well as in companies like Samsung, and notably in how it made these products appeal
Although I have spent a fair amount of time studying about Korean society and culture, this book was very articulate in terms of presenting different themes and characteristics of Korea as shown through Hallyu. The names of the people interviewed were not new to me, but I appreciated the semi-journalistic/sociological approach to get proper sources. The book to me didn't need proper referencing that much (Although it did have a few citations) as the anecdotal and observational story telling was ...more
Interesting book covering the remarkable transformation of Korea from relative poverty (in the 1980's) to a major Asian economy now. The author is a Korean American who moved back to Korea with her parents in 1985, to the (in)famous Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul.

Her main thesis is that 'han' (a Korean term roughly meaning the collective fury against fate) and national shame are the two biggest factors in transforming Korea. These two qualities compelled the government to function as a giant cor
Great book about South Korea! I hesitate to give it five stars because the material often come across as Euny Hong's personal opinion and experience. But I like her opinion and I think she is correct. After reading the book I understand Korea and the many Koreans I know and have known better, including my wife! Korea is an amazing country - the changes that have taken place over the last 20-30 years are truly spectacular (the time frame of the book).

Hong makes a good argument that these changes
This book was provided by Good Reads' First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

For some Americans, Psy was their first introduction to Korean pop culture. However, Korea has been aggressively marketing K-pop to the world for the last couple of decades. Euny Hong chronicles the infiltration of Korean music, film, food, and technology across the East and attempts to break into the West in her book "The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture."

An all encompassing read and I think it suffered a bit for that - in trying to roughly capture all the influences on Korean pop culture today, most of the contributing elements weren't explored enough. Despite that, I really enjoyed the use of Euny's personal story as someone sort of but not totally within Korean society, because she was able to give voice to what people thought of, and alternately, did not think about, from times where Korea was economically poor to modern day society, where ch ...more
FASCINATING. Eung Hong looks at the socioeconomic, historical, political, cultural, every-al aspect of Korean culture and lays it all out to explain how Korea went from being a third world country after the war to what it is today. "Fascinating" is literally the word that kept popping into my brain again and again as I kept reading. Sometimes it is difficult to adjust to Hong's tone, which can seem really condescending, but still it's interesting.

Basically Korea is like one big conglomerate and
Clearly written for Americans with very limited knowledge of South Korea or Korean culture and economics (like me), this book is a fun, breezy introduction. It's hardly comprehensive, but a deft touch and plenty of personal anecdotes make it a quick and enjoyable read that nevertheless informs. It occasionally feels like several magazine articles linked together, but the transitions are fairly smooth and the overarching ideas form suitable connective tissue. Those ideas are fascinating to me; in ...more
Ronald Chapman
Well written. Very easy to read. I liked Chapter 13 'Korea's Secret Weapon:'
However. I would have loved to have seen some photographs or drawings in the book.

Disclosure: I only read this book because my twenty-something daughter just moved to S. Korea for a one year teaching gig. Knew very little about Korea before. This whole Korean Wave phenomena is something I was completely ignorant of. The revelations in this book are more proof of our myopic American viewpoint. Korean cultural exports are a big deal in much of the world. The author has a Sarah Vowell style but she isn't as clever as Sarah Vowell. Much of this book seems like an overly long maga ...more
Hong seems to be using Psy's 15 minutes of fame to create her own 15 writing a book that is really about the psyche of modern day South Korea. That part is a very interesting read. To claim that Korea is conquering the world through exporting it's pop culture seems like a stretch but I guess she figured that was a needed hook.
I really enjoyed this book and learnt a lot about Korea's society and modern history. A lot of the writing is based on the author's personal experience and there are insights from various people she has interviewed. I will make some notes later and publish on my blog.

Tariq Mahmood
South Korea has always intrigued me as a Pakistani. Why has South Korea developed so much when Pakistan has failed in comparison is what has intrigued me. This book is useful in providing some of the answers. The main reason is support from the Korean government who instead of choosing to build a huge army in order to defend against North Korea focussed on building their economy. There is no point building modern armies and space explorations when people on the ground are dying of hunger.

So what
As evidenced by the eponymous "Asian Fascination" bookshelf of mine, I am completely fascinated by "Asian" history and culture. (Yes, I know there is no such thing as "Asian" culture.) I tend to be more familiar with Japanese and Chinese history and culture. One southeast Asian country I know very little about is South Korea. So I was delighted to receive an advanced reading copy of Euny Hong's The Birth of Korean Cool from NetGalley.

I really enjoyed Hong's book. I found it to be a great introd
Every Kpop fan should read this book. Packed with history, personal anecdotes, and cultural analysis, it is informative, funny, and powerful.

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“You may have an iPhone, for example, but its microchips are made by Apple’s biggest competitor—the Korean electronics company Samsung.” 2 likes
“Irony is that special privilege of wealthy nations;” 1 likes
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