Monday, October 29, 2012

Korea-related books on sale

The Royal Asiatic Society - Korea Branch is having a book sale with drastically reduced prices that is open to anyone interested, and runs until November 10, 2012. Here's all the technical information, followed by a few of my recommendations:
For every 30,000 won of purchases, one of the titles marked (*) may be chosen as a free gift.
Orders (indicating authors and titles) should be emailed to (not our usual email address, please) specifying if you can collect the books from our office (Seoul, Jongno 5ga, Christian Building) during working hours, or if you wish us to calculate the cost of packing and postage, and mail them. Please remember to indicate your full mailing address. If you live overseas, please specify if you prefer surface or airmail mailing. You will then be informed of the total cost including postage. Please tell us if you need the price to be indicated in US dollars (for payment through Paypal etc). Payment must be received before books are collected or mailed.
Here are a few of the books on sale which I've read before and can highly recommend:

Korean Political Tradition and Law. Hahm Pyong-choon, RAS-KB, 1971, Hardcover. 249 pp. ISBN 978-89-93699-07-4   Sale price KW10,000

This collection of articles by Harvard-educated law professor Hahm Pyong-choon (later Ambassador to the United States, and later still a victim of the North Korean bombing of the South Korean cabinet in Burma in 1982) may have first been published in 1967, but don't let that put you off. When it comes to explaining differences between Korean culture and society and the West, I'd rate this as one of the best books I've read. If you've ever been curious what Neo-Confucianism is (back to its Chinese sources) and how it affected the development of Korean political and social institutions, the first half of the opening essay deals with this, looking at how Chinese influences were adapted to Korean needs. He also looks at questions related to Korea being underdeveloped, and looks at differences in the legal traditions (the legalistic systems of the West vs the ethical systems of the East) with a critical eye (describing, for example, the "suffocating orthodoxy of the Yi Confucianism" which "slowly strangled the entire society"). He argues that because laws were never intended to protect the rights of the people, and were essentially used as weapons by those with power, and because Korea was ushered into a modern legal system under a colonial power, there was a long tradition of trying to evade the law, something which clearly has consequences today. In addition to this, several essays look at how the law is viewed by those who are tasked with enforcing it, with one examining attitudes towards squatters and whether officials and police thought it just to evict them when it came time for redevelopment (an issue which is certainly still relevant today, much like his analysis of attitudes towards the law against abortion). At any rate, I've only touched on a few chapters in this book, and with it being hardcover and only 10,000 won (down from 30,000), it's well worth it.

Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875-1885. Martina Deuchler. RAS-KB and U of Washington p, 1977. Hardbound. 310 pp. ISBN 978-89-93699-05-0   Sale price KW10,000

If you've ever wanted to know more about how Korea was opened by Japan and to the West, and the repercussions of the changes that occurred (especially of the reactions of the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats who thought their world was coming to an end and who fought it every step of the way), this book is well worth reading. Using Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Western sources, it provides a readable and concise history of the decade between 1875 and 1885 and delves into the motivations and actions of all the major players. I liked that it manages at times to have both a macro and micro view of events - who knew that the penalty for Korean women sneaking into the Japanese settlement in Busan (after it was opened) was beheading? There's lots to keep the reader interested, and, again, a hardcover book for 10,000 won (down from 42,000) is a great deal. (It's certainly quite a bit more through Amazon.)

The Imjin War. Sam Hawley. RAS-KB 2005. Hardbound, xvi pp. + 664 pp. + 20 pp. illustrations. ISBN 978-89-954424-2-5   Sale price KW25,000

The blurb at the RAS-KB site describes this book as "The most comprehensive account ever published in English of this cataclysmic event, so little known in the West. It begins with the political and cultural background of Korea, Japan, and China, discusses the diplomatic breakdown that led to the war, describes every major incident and battle from 1592 to 1598, and introduces a fascinating cast of characters along the way."

To add to this description, I would simply say that if you have any interest in this war - a war which led to the deaths of 10% of the Korean population and dwarfed anything happening in Europe at the time (Hideyoshi's initial invasion of Korea in 1592 was five times larger than the Spanish Armada was four years earlier) - then you want to read this book. It's very readable and gives you a good sense of who the main players were, and jumps back and forth between them (and even manages an interlude or two to look into how the war affected the Spanish in the Philippines). Again, it's hardcover, and with its normal price tag of 65,000 won being knocked down to 25,000 it's pretty hard to go wrong.

Undiplomatic Memories. William F. Sands, 1930. RAS-KB Reprint, 1990 Softbound. 238 pp.   Sale price KW8,000

William Franklin Sands began his career as an American foreign service officer in Japan in 1897 and then became first secretary of legation in Seoul the next year. From 1900-1904 he served as adviser to Emperor Gojong, and in this capacity, he was the last independent foreign adviser, being replaced during the Russo-Japanese War as he was by pro-Japanese American Durham White Stevens (who was assassinated by Korean 'patriots' in San Francisco in 1908). Living up to its name, this book recounts his time at the US legation and as adviser to Emperor Gojong in a pretty informal manner (describing how he almost came to blows with Prince Henry of Prussia or the reaction of some missionary women who caught him taking a bath in front of his house at the legation), and his service involved dealing with European diplomats playing at imperialist diplomacy, hunting down bandits in the north, dealing with a cholera outbreak, putting down a rebellion on Jeju Island, hearing rumours of Japanese plans to murder him, and chatting with a very amiable Ito Hirobumi, who he had interrupted while surrounded by geishas and wine. An entertaining read.

Fifteen Years Among the Topknots. 1904 and 1908. Lillias H. Underwood, RAS-KB Reprint, 1987. Softbound. 403 pp.  Sale price KW8,000

A personal account of the rapid change that occurred in Joseon Korea from the 1880s to the 1900s, written by a medical missionary who came to know the king and queen while also dealing with the poorest members of Korean society. She gives first hand accounts of such things as the 1888 'baby riots' and the Donghak Uprising.

South Korea (P. Bartz) Clarendon Press, Hardbound. 203pp ($10 / KW12,000) Sale price KW2,000

This book was published in 1972 and was written as a geographical study of Korea at that time. It's full of information about everything from Korea's topography and agriculture to industrial development, transportation and urbanization, and touches on Korea's history and culture. Full of photos and maps, it's well worth the sale price of 2,000 won. Here's Richard Rutt's review of the book from 1973:

Here are a few more books on sale that I've read and enjoyed:

Virtuous Women: Three Classic Korean Novels. Translated by Richard Rutt and Kim Chong-un, RAS-KB, 1974. Hardbound. 399 pp. ISBN 89-954424-3-3 Sale price KW15,000

For those interested in traditional literature or the place of women during the Joseon Dynasty, here are three most significant works of traditional Korean fiction: A Nine Cloud Dream, The True History of Queen Inhyon, and The Song of a Faithful Wife, Ch'unhyang. The major characters are all women and the three novels together give a vivid picture of the Korean ideal of womanhood before it felt the impact of Western culture. At 15,000 won, it's quite reduced from 54,000 won. If you're just interested in Chunhyang, it's available by itself as:

(*) The Song of a Faithful Wife, Richard Rutt, trans. RAS-KB Reprint, 1999, Paperbound, 97 pp.
Sale price KW2,000
Here is the timeless love story of Korea--the story of Ch'unhyang. An official's son and a girl of lowbirth fall in love and are secretly married. The official and his family are sent far away, and the girl becomes the property of a local official who abuses her. Her lover, though, attains the rank of government inspector and returns to punish the local official and rescue his beloved. Rutt's translation in narrative form is the most readable of English translations currently available. (Originally 12,000 won)
Yogong: Factory Girl. Robert F. Spencer, RAS-KB, 1988. Softbound. 185 pp. ISBN 89-954424-4-1   Sale price KW5,000
A book based on an ethnographic field study of the girls and young women who worked in factories undertaken between 1972 and 1978, looking at the families they came from, their movement from the countryside to the city, work and living conditions, struggles with education, and how marriage affected them and their work.

Hamel's Journal and a Description of the Kingdom of Korea, 1653-1666. Hendrik Hamel, English translation by Jean-Paul Buys, RAS-KB, 1998. Softbound. 107 pp. ISBN 89-7225-086-4  Sale price KW8,000
The first Western account of Korea is the story of a group of sailors shipwrecked on Cheju-do. Some thirteen years later, after escaping to Japan, Hamel gave the outside world a firsthand description of Korea, an almost unknown country until then. This is the first translation based on the original manuscript. $15 / KW18,000

(*) Discovering Seoul: An Historical Guide. Donald N. Clark and James H. Grayson. RAS-KB, 1986. Softbound. illustrated, with maps. 358 pp. ISBN 978-89-93699-04-3 Sale price KW2,000

As a guide to Seoul, a book published in 1986 is obviously going to be out of date, but its description of  historical monuments and sites in Seoul is still worthwhile, and it includes maps, color photographs, and explanations of the history and significance of each site. I suppose another thing that's interesting are the descriptions of sites that no longer exist.

(*) Early Voyagers: Collected Poems. James Wade. Hollym 1969. ($2 / KW2,000) Free with any other purchase on request
I've posted lots of excerpts from Wade's 1967 book 'One Man's Korea' here before. I'm not sure how enticing a book of poetry by him is, but it is a hardcover, attractive looking book signed and numbered by the author, and its free, so why not?

These are the books I'll be buying from the sale; the first is more for the biography of James Gale, one of the most important Canadians to set foot on the peninsula:

James Scarth Gale's History of the Korean People, edited by Richard Rutt, RAS-KB, 1967. Hardbound. 174 pp. ISBN 978-89-954424-1-8   Sale price KW10,000

A reprint of the classic English-language history of Korea first published in 1927. It has been extensively annotated by Bishop Rutt with reference to sources and including commentary. It is introduced by an extensive and, to date, the only biography of Dr. Gale. a towering scholar in the early days of Western residence in Korea. $40 / KW48,000

Challenged Identities: North American Missionaries in Korea 1884-1934. Elizabeth Underwood, RAS-KB, 2004. Hardbound, 326 pp. ISBN 978-89-954424-0-1   Sale price KW10,000

A fascinating look into the lives of the first Protestant missionaries to Korea: the challenges they faced in their lives, from overcoming culture shock and learning the language to raising a family and building a house; and the challenges they faced in the Christian work that they did, challenges that shaped their identities, their policies, and indeed their beliefs in the land of Korea more than a century ago. $45 / KW54,000

Korea Under Colonialism: The March First Movement and Anglo-Japanese Relations. Ku Dae-yeol, RAS-KB, 1985. Hardbound. 350 pp. ISBN 978-89-93699-09-8   Sale price KW10,000

A thorough study on March First Movement, a Korean uprising against Japanese colonial rule in 1919, with special emphasis on its international implications and Britain's role in the uprising. $35 / KW42,000

Korea's 1884 Incident: Its Background and Kim Ok-kyun's Dream. Harold F. Cook, RAS-KB, 1982, Softbound. 264 pp. ISBN 978-89-93699-08-1   Sale price KW10,000

A description of an attempted coup aimed at bringing more rapid reform and modernization to Korea in the early years after her opening to the rest of the world and the role of one of the leaders. The work includes an analysis of the situation in 1884 and evaluates the motives of the plotters and the results of the attempt both on the nation and for the individuals. Scholarly, yet exciting reading, and of some insight to political attitudes in Korea even today. $18 / KW22,000

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