Tag Archives: South 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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Walk On

Prospecs Cool 405 (300)

Walking Shoe Review: PROSPECS Cool Walk 405

Is a walking shoe from South Korea flexible and protective enough to be used on a daily basis?

If you’re like me, you usually do not use a walking shoe for walking – whether on vacation or for exercise or even at work. Why? Because most walking shoes are too stiff, especially in the forefoot, and they’re generally too heavy; the latter makes walking feel more like a chore than a pleasure, especially when one’s feet are already sore and achy.

I’ve often wondered why athletic shoe manufacturers do not make a lightweight and extremely flexible walking shoe. Well, it seems that a Korean company, PROSPECS, may have done just that. PROSPECS has been in business in South Korea since 1981, producing athletic equipment, clothing, football shoes, running shoes, tennis shoes and what they call “sport walking” shoes. The PROSPECStors at the company’s USA headquarters at Incline Village, Nevada, provided a pair of new walking shoes for me to test.

The PROSPECS Cool Walk 405 shoes weigh just 7.7 ounces in a size 7 and come with an 8.5mm heel-to-toe drop. The men’s version comes in a cool color scheme of near-denim blue, accentuated with neon green and white. They’re more than a bit reminiscent of the Nike Air Pegasus+ 28 running shoe (the version prior to the current model), which is a plus based on positive comments about the appearance of the Pegasus. However, the Cool Walk has a much straighter form than the Pegasus running shoe. Like the Pegasus, it runs narrow. I was able to fit my narrow feet into the Cool Walk a half-size bigger than my normal walking shoe size. Some individuals with broader feet may have to try a full size larger.

These shoes are clearly well designed and manufactured. No apparent flaws were visible. In use, it holds its own as an all-terrain shoe. On concrete, I felt as if I were wearing a pair of late 80s-early 90s racing flats from Nike or Asics. This translates into an almost “barefoot” feel, something that was a stated goal for PROSPECS. The comfort level increases when walking on a natural trail, and the walk feels surprisingly comfortable on asphalt. If I had to walk a long distance on asphalt, I’d choose these shoes instead of a pair of running shoes.

The Cool Walk is highly flexible, especially in the forefoot area. This feature is good for those with relatively inflexible feet. While the shoe features a unique Walking Straight Line sole intended to support a straight-ahead walking style, it also offers good side-to-side movement. The latter is essential when one’s walking on uneven surfaces and trails, and there’s enough cushioning (three levels worth, including a rubbery Flubber 360 upper midsole) so that you do not feel the rocks you may step on.

I was initially concerned that the sock liner was overly built up and protective, so after a few miles I substituted a thinner insole. When I subsequently elected to place the supplied sock liner back into the shoe, it was a relief to find that the insole conformed to my feet within a matter of miles; it then seemed to almost disappear.

There’s excellent support in the Cool Walk, as the shoe comes with both external and internal high impact pads. The internal blue rubber pad at the heel, attached to the underside of the sock liner, is like those found on some expensive men’s business-class walking shoes.

What happens if you take a trip and forget to take your running shoes with you? I tested the Cool Walk’s ability to protect the feet for a few miles of low-to-the-ground jogging and it passed just fine.

For a list price of just below one hundred dollars ($99), the Cool Walk is a good value. That’s cheaper than most running shoes these days, and this walking shoe seems to blend comfort with durability. The PROSPECS Cool Walk 405 is a lightweight, flexible, shock-absorbing shoe that should provide its users with hundreds of pleasurable, comfortable walking miles.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article was originally posted on the Blogcritics Sports site:


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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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