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Birth of Korean Cool Broché – 5 août 2014
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A FRESH, FUNNY, UP-CLOSE LOOK AT HOW SOUTH KOREA REMADE ITSELF AS THE WORLD'S POP CULTURE POWERHOUSE OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURYBy 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 effective strategy to become a major world superpower by first becoming the world's number one pop culture exporter. As a child, Euny Hong moved from America to the Gangnam neighbourhood in Seoul. She was a witness to the most accelerated part of South Korea's economic development, during which time it leapfrogged from third-world military dictatorship to first-world liberal democracy on the cutting edge of global technology. Euny Hong recounts how South Korea vaulted itself into the twenty-first century, becoming a global leader in business, technology, education, and pop culture. Featuring lively, in-depth reporting and numerous interviews with Koreans working in all areas of government and society, The Birth of Korean Cool reveals how a really uncool country became cool, and how a nation that once banned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock 'n' roll could come to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and the world's most important smart phone.
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- ASIN : 1250045118
- Éditeur : Picador Paper (5 août 2014)
- Langue : Anglais
- Broché : 286 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781250045119
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250045119
- Poids de l'article : 249 g
- Dimensions : 14.02 x 1.98 x 21.03 cm
- Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon : 4 en Études sur les personnes asiatiques et d'ascendance asiatique
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Some of what is written is interesting, enough to gain the book 2 stars, but I can't even state that everything she has said is true. There are 'facts' I spotted in the book that seem to be bending the truth a little bit. There are some odd omissions: she does mention the move to democracy in the late 1980s, but doesn't look at its causes and consequences; the influence of hosting the 1988 Olympics is never mentioned; China is rarely mentioned; the growing trend of Korean cosmetic brands in eastern Asian is ignored; and who writes a pop culture book with only a few passing references to the internet? One of the the things that makes Korea cool is that it has its own self-grown pop culture and this is partly fuelled by the internet - you won't find one mention of Naver in the entire book.
A whole chapter is devoted to Samsung and yet it somehow glosses over the surface without looking carefully enough at how Samsung has become a company that can compete with Apple at being 'cool'. The author does mention that Samsung's success has been partly because they have significantly improved the reliability of their products but there is no mention of the fact that this is because the manufacturing processes are often being conducted in China.
The concept of this book was great and deserved a better author, one who could lay aside personal prejudice and conduct extensive objective research. The book also deserved a more thorough editor, one who could ensure that the writing flows logically without random deviations appearing.
The author - a Korean American journalist that returned to South Korea with her parents in the 1980s - is well positioned to provide a reasonably nuanced perspective on both how far the country has come since her culture shock 1980s time there and on how the basic business model employed for conquering the world with culture exports works.
Be it K-Pop music, Korean soap operas or computer games, all are covered, with plenty of the interviews with the stars, the creators and the government agencies promoting and regulating the industry that were the basis for the research being summarized or partially reproduced for a richer 'voice'.
While many approaches will be familiar to readers who have studied the Japanese and Korean export based manufacturing growth models, it is quite fascinating to read how one can - and successfully at that - transfer those principles to a segment that is much more heavily dependent on creativity and less on process optimization.
While at current levels neither of the Anglo-Saxon entertainment powerhouses need be fundamentally worried in the short run, an understanding of what may follow and how to prepare for it - remember, no one took their electronics or automotive attempts seriously for a long time, either - is probably a good thing to acquire. And for that - even if the book cannot be classed as an in-depth industry study performed by an insider / expert - this is one of the best possible starts. On a lighter note, if you are just baffled by the Psy phenomenon, the book will enlighten, too.
The book's focus is on South Korea's largely government-sponsored cultural "Wave" or "Hallyu" - basically the mass export of Korean pop music, tv dramas and movies. This is a really fascinating subject itself, and the book is worth a read on that basis alone. The book explains how, in developing countries around the world, people are devouring Korean pop culture, where they once might have sought US or UK offerings. This new pop culture apparently accounts for a pretty significant portion of South Korea's GDP.
However, you should also give this book a read if you are interested in South Korea more generally - the author sheds a lot of light on pop culture, the Korean social scene and family life, in a way that few other books do. It's also a very readable and humorous book too.
Only a few gripes (and not enough to reduce the book to four stars): there's been some sloppy editing here and there in terms of grammar and spelling, and some other fairly trivial mistakes like referring to Kim Jong il's favourite drink, Hennessy, as "Whiskey", rather than Cognac. But that's all pretty minor stuff, and really shouldn't put you off.
5 stars because: the subject matter is interesting in itself, it fills a void when it comes to books on modern South Korea and it's funny and highly readable.