Ko Un; Translated from Korean to English by Brother Anthony of Taize and Lee Sang-wha; Green Integer: 133pp., $13.95
This volume of poetry brings Korea’s foremost poet Ko Un’s work to English speaking readers. It was first published in 2000, written after his voyage to the Himalayan Mountains.
The book contains over 80 poems inspired by his travels to the highest peaks of the world. Due to fatigue and the aggravated tuberculosis that threatened his life, he spent three years writing the volume after returning from the journey
The subjects range from the travel itself to the mythology, history and legends of Tibetan Buddhism. While each piece can be read separately and do stand independently in their own right, the imbued Buddhist tales and a read from start to finish make the body of work almost a historical and religious epic. Like the poet states in his preface, we become a pilgrim in a passageway.
A translator’s note of what approach they took in executing the translation or an appendix containing some of the original Korean versions would have enhanced the understanding of the poems.
Short but packed with references to Tibetan culture, the book is a treat for poetry fans, particularly for those who speak both Korean and English.
— CHO MU-HYUN
THE KOREAN MIND
BOYE LAFAYETTE DE MENTE; TUTTLE PUBLISHING; 466 PP., $19.95
Do Koreans have a unique character and personality that sets them apart from other Asians? In “The Korean Mind,” Boye Lafayette De Mente gives insight into the character and personality of the Korean people, providing bridges for communicating and interacting with them. Although Korean attitudes and behavior may be influenced by the modern world, this book maintains that the Korean mindset is still very much shaped by ancient culture and traditions. The author is an acknowledged authority on Asia and the author of more than 30 books, including “Korean Business Etiquette,” “Survival Korean,” “Etiquette Guide to China” and “Instant China.”
For foreigners interested in doing business in Korea, his 2004 book “Korean Business Etiquette” is a good reference as well, offering a penetrating view of the morals and values that shape the Korean business culture.
— DO JE-HAE
The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Always Good Politics
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith; Woongjin Jisik House; 440 pp., 16,000 won
This research-based volume focuses on the very basic motivation of leaders; rulers will do anything to remain in power. The authors — Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith — make a bold statement that rulers, historical and contemporary alike, don’t care about public interest unless they must.
It is an interesting read — one will start to wonder if indeed the difference between tyrants and voted politicians is just a convenient fiction. Surely, some of the key points sound too obvious. The authors argue that almost all aid money is dispersed not to alleviate poverty but to secure loyalty and influence. However, it is amusing to read an analysis of the straightforward yet controversial topic supported with actual supporting evidence.
De Mesquita is the Julius Silver Professor of Politics and director of the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy at New York University. Smithis professor of politics at New York University and the recipient of three grants from the National Science Foundation.
— NOH HYUN-GI
India Management Secrets
KIM GWANG-RO; HANUL PUBLISHING; 270 PP., 20,000 WON
From afar, India can seem unappealing as an environment for business, riddled with poor infrastructure, shackled in a rigid caste system and burdened by bureaucratic hurdles.
But the author, who built LG’s Indian operation from scratch to become No. 1 in the market in four years and went on to become the first Korean CEO export at the Indian consumer electronics firm Videocon begs to differ.
His impressions of the country and more importantly its people cannot be further away from the popular misconceptions. At one point he even claims that it resembles his idea of heaven.
The observations of the differences in the corporate cultures between his homeland and India are funny and insightful. Unlike the Korean wallflowers in the boardrooms, Indians of all levels speak their mind. They nimbly separate business from personal affairs.
A negative aspect of this book lies in the writing style. There is more tell than show. He chooses to touch briefly upon his various anecdotes in tandem instead of elaborating on one experience.
— KWAAK JE-YUP