Sunday, January 30, 2011

[book review] Two books search for Korea’s beauty

By tomato99 ♥LoveBaeYongJoon
source: JoongAng Ilbo
January 29, 2011

For those looking for a travel book with content divided by region,
“Korean Journeys: Heartland of Culture and History” is the perfect guide.


Stuck with no plans for next week’s Lunar New Year holiday? Two recently published travel books offer insights on Korean getaways that are both well-traveled and off the beaten path.



“A Journey in Search of Korea’s Beauty” has been a hot seller due to a record number of foreign tourists exploring Korea’s history and natural beauty.

This book stands out because it is a first-person account by one of Asia’s most famous actors, Bae Yong-joon.

The strongest point of “A Journey in Search of Korea’s Beauty” is its honest portrayal of the subject matter. Bae explores his country in search of its “beauty.”

However, the book can hardly be considered a “deep” look into the country. He focuses on kimchi-making, hanbok, temple stays, tea, pottery, Hangul, museums, hanok and other well-known aspects of Korea. Nevertheless, the book’s plain table of contents is given some life simply because it is from Bae’s perspective.

The book is divided into six parts: “Staying,” “Leaving,” “Letting go,” “Contemplating,” “Returning,” and “Leaving, Once Again.” (Yes, there two “Leaving” sections). It also includes useful routes and maps at the end of the book.

Fans of the actor will be delighted to see his pictures of scenic places in Korea. But they will be even happier to sort through dozens of photos of Bae in action: trying local food, learning to make pottery and drinking tea with a monk.

Fans of Bae will love this book, but those not interested in his point of view will not find it of any value.



For those looking for a more comprehensive travel book with content divided by region, the Korea Foundation’s “Korean Journeys: Heartland of Culture and History” is the perfect guide.

Whereas most travel books on Korea struggle to get to the point, “Korean Journeys” demonstrates the beauty of the country through photographs.

The book’s understated photography paints an honest portrayal of the content covered – unlike most travel books that utilize stunning photographs, which often misrepresent a location’s character.

The content is divided into five regions: Seoul, Central and Western Regions, Southwestern Regions, Southeastern Regions, and Gangwon. Each category is further broken down by city and the historical background of locations.

The book introduces Seoul’s ancient city wall, describing the 600-year history starting from the Joseon Dynasty through to the Japanese colonization period.

“Korean Journeys” focuses on lesser-known destinations for foreign tourists such as Jinan, North Jeolla. Jinan is characterized by its striking rock formations, numerous temples and its role as a focal point of Korea.


A Journey in Search of Korea’s Beauty
Author: Bae Yong-joon
Genre: Travel
Publisher: Hollym

Korean Journeys: Heartland of Culture and History
Author: Lee Kyong-hee
Genre: Travel
Publisher: The Korea Foundation


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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