Korea (Hardcover)

The Impossible Country: South Korea's Amazing Rise from the Ashes: The Inside Story of an Economic, Political and Cultural Phenomenon

By Daniel Tudor

Tuttle Publishing, 9780804842525, 320pp.

Publication Date: November 10, 2012

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/13/2018)

List Price: 22.95*
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Description

South Korea's amazing rise from the ashes: the inside story of an economic, political, and cultural phenomenon

Long overshadowed by Japan and China, South Korea is a small country that happens to be one of the great national success stories of the postwar period. From a failed state with no democratic tradition, ruined and partitioned by war, and sapped by a half-century of colonial rule, South Korea transformed itself in just fifty years into an economic powerhouse and a democracy that serves as a model for other countries. With no natural resources and a tradition of authoritarian rule, Korea managed to accomplish a second Asian miracle.

Daniel Tudor is a journalist who has lived in and written about Korea for almost a decade. In Korea: The Impossible Country, Tudor examines Korea's cultural foundations; the Korean character; the public sphere in politics, business, and the workplace as well as the family, dating, and marriage. In doing so, he touches on topics as diverse as shamanism, clan-ism, the dilemma posed by North Korea, the myths about doing business in Korea, the Koreans' renowned hard-partying ethos, and why the infatuation with learning English is now causing massive social problems.

South Korea has undergone two miracles at once: economic development and complete democratization. The question now is, will it become as some see Japan, a prosperous yet aging society, devoid of energy and momentum? Or will the dynamism of Korean society and its willingness to change--as well as the opportunity it has now to welcome outsiders into its fold--enable it to experience a third miracle that will propel it into the ranks of the world's leading nations regarding human culture, democracy, and wealth?

More than just one journalist's account, Korea: The Impossible Country also draws on interviews with many of the people who made South Korea what it is today. These include:
  • Choi Min-sik, the star of "Old Boy."
  • Park Won-soon, Mayor of Seoul.
  • Soyeon Yi, Korea's first astronaut Hong Myung-bo, legendary captain of Korea's 2002 FIFA World Cup team.
  • Shin Joong-hyun, the 'Godfather of Korean Rock.'
  • Ko Un, poet.
  • Hong Seok-cheon, restaurateur, and the first Korean celebrity to 'come out.'

And many more, including a former advisor to President Park Chung-hee; a Shaman priestess ('mudang'); the boss of Korea's largest matchmaking agency; a 'room salon' hostess; an architect; as well as chefs, musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, homemakers, and chaebol conglomerate employees.


Praise For Korea: The Impossible Country: South Korea's Amazing Rise from the Ashes: The Inside Story of an Economic, Political and Cultural Phenomenon

"But this is not a history book. Tudor, Seoul correspondent for The Economist, provides a fairly perfunctory account of the "miracle on the Han River", which saw South Korea transformed from postwar ruin to prosperous democracy within four decades. The book's real value comes in its exploration of the cultural forces behind the country's zeal for self-improvement. He spends more time analysing the rise of Korean popular culture, which has swept across Asia during the past decade and is now going global with the success of PSY, the rapper whose hit, "Gangnam Style", has become a worldwide internet sensation. Some see PSY's breakthrough as evidence that South Korea is finally establishing itself in the global consciousness as the modern, sassy society it is. That may be true but his satire of life in the rich, fashionable Gangnam district of Seoul also reflects unease over the rising social divisions charted in Tudor's book."—Financial Times

"Sixty years ago, South Korea was an economic wasteland. Today, it is not only the world's 11th largest economy, but also a vibrant democracy and an emerging cultural force. This transformation is the subject of a new book, Korea: The Impossible Country, by Daniel Tudor, Korea correspondent for the Economist. He argues that, thanks in part to its neighbors, South Korea is all too often overlooked. A pity, he says, since "South Koreans have written the most unlikely and impressive story of nation-building of the last century.""—Time Magazine

Mr. Tudor pushes into new social and economic territory with his book, including the rising role of immigrants, multicultural families and even gay people in South Korea. He lays out some of the contradictory behavior one finds in South Korea, such as the unending desire for new and trendy gadgets and fashion and yet the tunnel-like view of what constitutes a successful life."—Wall Street Journal

"Books on Korea are a plenty, but few seem to really get beyond kimchi and k-pop and deal with some of the less often-discussed topics that affect Koreans on a daily basis. We were therefore interested to hear that Daniel Tudor, the Economist's Korea Correspondent, has a book coming out later this month that really delves deep into South Korean contemporary society. […]the book portrays Korea from a comprehensive and fascinating angle that's worth sharing with our readers."—KoreaBang.com

"With a new generation every five years, it's hard to keep up with Korea. This book is long overdue but Daniel Tudor has done a magnificent job filling the gap. Not only has he captured the new Korea, but he does so in an effortless style that leaves the reader wanting more."—Michael Breen, author of The Koreans

"Written with affection and deep knowledge, Daniel Tudor's book fills a huge gap in our understanding of one of Asia's least known countries. His engaging narrative overturns the stereotypes by depicting a society which, though full of stresses, strains and contradictions, has overcome poverty and dictatorship to become a prosperous democracy. South Korea's transformation into a vibrant, modern state is, as he says, a story that deserves to be better known. Tudor has done the "impossible country" a service by opening its secrets to the world."—David Pilling, Asia Editor, Financial Times

"Daniel Tudor is one of the most influential foreign correspondents in South Korea—and one of the least known. As the reporter for the Economist, which doesn't use bylines, most of his work is published anonymously. But Mr. Tudor's profile is about to take a sharp rise with the publication of his new book, Korea: The Impossible Country.

"Daniel Tudor covers all the important issues, yet does not simply tell the more familiar stories but looks deeper and wider to give the full story of Korea today."—Martin Uden, Former British Ambassador to South Korea