Tag Archives: Korea

Sonata Days and Nights

Seoul Man amazon

Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis & Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan by Frank Ahrens (Harper Business, $27.99, 336 pages)

“I could live here for forty years, learn the language inside out, and still not understand Korea.”

Seoul Man is basically two books in one. The first is a “fish out of water” story of a middle-aged, married later in life, American who finds himself living and working in South Korea. It’s a completely different world than the one he knew as a reporter in Washington, D.C.

Seoul Man city

Much of Korean culture – one focused on society first and individuals second, makes little sense to Western eyes. Plus, the basic conservatism of the culture appears to now be overrun by a tsunami wave of dangerous binge drinking (Koreans now consume the most alcohol, by far, of any people on the planet). Still, this part of the true account is fun, engaging and entertaining.

Not so entertaining is the part of the book where Ahrens writes about the corporate culture at Hyundai Motor; about his Christian beliefs (which apparently did not negate his participation in drinking fests); and time spent away from his wife and baby daughter. In fact, a long chapter about time spent in Indonesia adds nothing, while detracting from the natural narrative style. It should have been dumped.

Seoul Man back cover

There’s not enough within the pages of Seoul Man to classify it as a true business book. (Automobile lovers will find it lacking in the inside details they may expect to find.) It’s definitely a memoir, one that starts with an exciting bang before it ends on a dull whimper. Wait for the paperback version, or not.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book will be released on August 16, 2016.

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Seoulful

Korean at a Glance: Phrases Book & Dictionary for Travelers (Second Edition) by Daniel Holt and Grace Massey Holt

Let’s suppose you’ve been called to do some business in South Korea, a country you’ve never visited before.   As an “accidental tourist”, Korean at a Glance is just the guidebook you’ll need!

This is, first, a phrasebook that shows how to pronounce useful words and phrases in Korean.   It also shows what these phrases look like in writing.   Just as importantly, this book is divided into twenty-six sections such as Food and Drink, Shopping, Communications, and Driving a Car.   These will help you to do as the Koreans do during your visit to Seoul and elsewhere.   Most impressive are the colored maps of Central Seoul and the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system that are found inside the front and back covers.   Also, this little guidebook comes in a nice plastic cover to help prevent it from getting dirty or damaged during your sojourn.

Kudos to Daniel Holt and Grace Massey Holt of Sacramento (friends of this reviewer) for doing such a great job of updating this guide that was first released in 1988.

Kimchi to all!

Barron’s, $8.99, 338

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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