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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,646 ratings  ·  262 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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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,646 ratings  ·  262 reviews

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Amar Pai
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Barry Welsh
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jake Goretzki
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This is a well paced and personable look at the K-phenomenon, nicely augmented with that outsider-insider angle that comes from Hong having spent most of her childhood in the US and where being Korean was once embarrassing, not hip.

It's pretty useful on Korean culture in general. I love the idea of shame and rage ('han') being the engine of so much ambition and progress. I find myself thinking of Korea at moments as the Asian answer to Ireland (or perhaps Poland); dicked around by boorish neigh
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
Pawarut Jongsirirag
จากประเทศทีเเทบไมมีใครรูจักในปลายยุค 90’s พลิกฟืนกลับมาเปนประเทศยักษใหญไดอยางทักวันนีไดอยางไร ทุกอยางเริมตนจาก ‘ฮอลยู’

The Birth of Korea Cool จะพาเราไปทำความเขาใจวาอะไรเปนปัจจัยสำคัญทีทำใหเกาหลีเปนอยางทุกวันนี ไมวาจะเปน “ฮาน” หรือความรูสึกคับเเคน นอยเนือตำใจ ทีประเทศถูกรุกรานมาหลายพันปีโดยเกาหลีไมเคยรุกรานใครเลย เกาหลีใชฮานในการขับเคลือนประเทศ เราจะไมยอมเเพอีกเเลว เราจะตองชนะ เราจะตองทำใหได
เเตถาสูกันในทางเศรษฐกิจ เกาหลีเเทบไมเหนทางชนะเนืองจากประชากรไมไดมากมายเเละไมไดมีทรัพยากรอุดมสมบูรณ คำตอบจึ
Bryn Donovan
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was published a few years back, and I'm fairly sure it wouldn't have been without the popularity of the song "Gangnam Style" by Psy. I'm really glad it was, though -- it's a fun and fascinating read.

Hong writes about her own experiences of her adolescence in Seoul, about historical and present-day South Korean culture, and about the country's state-sponsored entertainment industry. I knew a little bit about state-sponsored industries in South Korea from the book Bad Samaritans, but I
Teguh Affandi
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Setelah tertunda-tunda dengan bacaan lain (bukan berarti buku ini jelek, bagus bahkan) karena entah PR atau apa, buku ini tamat dengan cepat setelah seharian saya kunyah. Saya yang belakangan (mungkin dimulai dari dua tahun terakhir) memilih drama korea sebagai hiburan ketimbang nonton televisi kita, merasa yakin bahwa Korea punya rahasia dan sejarah panjang akan k-pop nya.

Dua drama yang membuat saya ngeh, bahwa being k-pop idol bukan seperti artis di indonesia. Ada aturan mengikat, dan tata kel
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is more personal than strictly research based like some other books on the topic; as such it has a lot of the author's opinions in it. For example: the artist PSY doesn't have the best of relationships with his father, which has been mentioned in several interviews. But according to the author of this book: "in the western media, the press wouldn't write about this even on a slow day". Or, continuing the theme, PSY has a song called "Father" but the author states that "no western pop icon w ...more
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hong's book is half-memoir, half-social study. She has a lot of material to cover, so often the chapters feel superficial, but the book is a breezy read that offers a solid lesson on Korea's move from the third world to the first.

As K-pop has been the major obsession of my life for the last eight years, the chapter covering K-pop was my favorite. But I did find the rest of the book insightful and full of things that will help fans of K-culture come to understand Korea's history and motivations.
Linh Hoàng
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Đây là một cuốn sách khá thú vị.

Thứ nhất, nói một chút về tác giả, là người Hàn nhưng sinh ra ở Mỹ, trở về Hàn nhưng tự nhận là luôn ghét việc mình là người Hàn. Điều này để thấy là cuốn sách được viết bởi người Hàn, nhưng không phải là một góc nhìn "yêu nước" mà ngược lại có chút "kẻ ngoại đạo" với góc nhìn có sự so sánh thực tế hơn. Với nghề nghiệp là nhà báo, tác giả có mối quan hệ với kha khá nhân vật để viết bài. Cả những nhân vật ở Hàn hay ở Mỹ để nhìn thấy mọi thứ đa chiều hơn.

Thứ hai,
** Books 24 - 2016 **

4 of 5 stars!

Should i mention again why this books is awesome?? I doesn't learn much about South Korea and more curious the story about North Korea.. After i read this books. wow okay just wow i've got so many information that i haven't know about South Korea before especially Hallyu wave.

You can saw a lot of my status updates for this books. some facts that really overhelming me and i can get it why K-pop and hallyu wave is bigger like nowadays.

This books also already be
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great funny personal introduction to Hallyu Wave and "soft power" in general. I was a little bit familiar with some things from my time as a SONE, but this one really hits all the notes. It connects Korean economics, history, and geopolitics to Hallyu Wave in a serious way really well without being dull or academic. It's all framed in a bit of a way for green-eared Westerners to be like "I can't believe this!", which can be a plus or minus depending. But that's my demographic so it worked for me ...more
Indah Threez Lestari
685 - 2016

Sejauh ini aku belum terkena gelombang Hallyu, khususnya dari sisi Drakor atau K-Pop (kalau manhwa mah lumayan banyak yang dibaca, meskipun cuma sedikit yang dikoleksi). Bukan berarti aku belum pernah mencoba menontonnya sedikit, tapi tetap saja tidak tertarik meskipun lingkungan sekitar sepertinya doyan benar.

Kalau dari sisi teknologi sih, ada beberapa barang merek Korea yang cukup lama kugunakan, terutama yang bermerek Samsung atau LG. Meski demikian, buat hp sepertinya aku masih set
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, asia
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)!

May 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-read

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.
Léa Silhol
J'ai lu celui-ci passablement *très* lentement, et cela n'a rien à voir avec la qualité du livre per se, mais tout avec mon propre emploi du temps. Aurais-je eu la latitude de le dévorer en un seul jour que je l'aurais très certainement fait, ne déposant le volume que pour creuser la foultitude d'ouvertures et pistes connexes.
En un mot comme en cent : une lecture parfaite en tous points.
L'auteure se sert de sa propre expérience de Coréenne née et élevée à l'étranger et qui découvre son propre pa
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: year-2018
เปนหนังสือวิเคราะหกำเนิดความรุงเรืองของวัฒนธรรมกระแสนิยมแบบเกาหลี ผานมุมมองของผูเขียน ซึงเปนคนเกาหลีใตทีใชชีวิตวัยเดกในอเมริกา กอนจะยายกลับมาเรียนประถมและมัธยมยุค 80-90 ในยานกังนัม ซึงเปนยานเศรษฐีใหมของโซล จึงถือวามีทังมุมมองของคนนอก และคนใน

(แตขณะอานกตองสำนึกไวดวยวาทังสองมุมมอง ตางเปนคนเกาหลีเหมือนกัน ดังนันยอมอวยตัวเองเปนปกติ)

จุดเดนของหนังสือคือการเลาประสบการณของผูเขียน ทีไดเหนตังแตเกาหลีเฉิมเชย (เราจำไดวาสมัยโนน การทองเทียวเกาหลีโฆษณาประเทศวา ดินแดนแหงความสงบยามเชา) จนกระทังมีซัมซุง มีไซ ทงบั
The book covers the history of post-war Korean popular culture, including personal experiences by the author, a Korean-American who lived in Seoul as a teen. The writing is same-y, like reading multiple Buzzfeed or HuffPo articles in a row, and this makes it difficult to stay engaged.

The breezy style elides some topics that could use more exploration. For example, the author says that Korean beauty standards have nothing to do with Western standards. But light skin, double eyelids, nose bridges
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this! The author's writing style was very engaging and lighthearted. It was almost like hearing a friend telling you a story and not actually reading a book.

There was humor without trying too hard, teensy sarcasm and interesting fun facts you would of never guessed - at least for me.

Towards the end it got a bit too patriotic and maybe even somewhat propaganda like for me and less of an observation of what Korea was like to live in from the author's perspective.

Flor Méndez
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Le erra un poco al momento de hablar de Kpop (se deja ver que no es fan del género ni que escucha alguna que otra canción), pero el resto, lo cultural, político, económico, social y muchos otros etcéteras, es impecable. La narración es entretenida y dinámica, y ni te das cuenta de que estás leyendo una (básicamente) radiografía de la sociedad coreana actual y todo el recorrido que se hizo para llegar a lo que es hoy.
Anh Dao
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
as im quite into korean culture, the book explains a lot how it’s so popular worldwide, a culture marketing study case i guess.
Quynh Ngo
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
South Korea is a super interesting country that even surprises an Asian like me. So many things to learn from how it goes from the aftermath of the war to become a developed nation. It's not heavy like an academic book; instead, it's a narrative through the lens of the author who migrated from the US back to South Korea with her family. She will show how she adapted to this new environment and provides a clear compare-and-contrast style between the US and Korean culture. If you're looking into v ...more
Satkar Ulama
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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,
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Tran Hiep
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Nếu bạn nghĩ rằng đây là một cuốn sách mô tả về một làn sóng văn hoá Hàn Quốc đậm chất thời thượng như những MV K-pop hay những bộ phim Hàn đình đám thì bạn đã sai. Tác giả với con mắt của một người Mỹ gốc Hàn đã có những phân tích, đánh giá và cả những đoạn phỏng vấn những người trong cuộc để giải mã con đường đi vươn ra thế giới của Hallyu. Bạn sẽ nhận ra rằng để đạt được thành công, chính phủ, doanh nghiệp và người dân Hàn Quốc đã phải tính toán và hành động trong một lộ trình gian khổ như th ...more
Nhung Pham
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crap
Không đáng để đọc hết. Nội dung được viết theo quan sát cá nhân và phỏng vấn riêng với các nhân vật 'có vẻ' quan trọng. Người viết bộc lộ quá nhiều cảm xúc cá nhân và điều đó chỉ thể hiện cách cư xử xấu xí của cô ấy. Các thông tin đưa ra khó mà có thể khiến người đọc ngạc nhiên về sự trỗi dậy của làn sóng Hallyu. Sự liên kết giữa các chương cũng không rõ ràng. Cảm giác giống như đang đọc tin trên tạp chí. Quyển sách này được viết cho người Mỹ nên những người châu Á đọc sẽ thấy rất khó chịu với v ...more
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“If Korea were a person, it would be diagnosed as a neurotic, with both an inferiority and a superiority complex.” 5 likes
“Irony is that special privilege of wealthy nations;” 3 likes
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