Picked this one out of the bargain bin (which seems to be where I'm doing all of my book shopping these days). I've known about it for years, but I'd never read it until now. Why in the heck did I wait so long!?
The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, and Where Their Future Lies by Michael Breen
Okay, yes, the author is British, so I emphatically did *not* understand all of his off-hand references, but in final analysis, that didn't matter. Divided into sections about culture, history, business, and politics, this book is the most comprehensive treatise on Korea that I have read. (There aren't that many, so Breen doesn't have much competition.) The insights come fast and furious, particularly in the culture section of the book, and I sympathized very much with the majority of the stuff that he wrote, and he does not, thank goodness, buy into the Western-spawned Korea-centric prejudices that I've often heard repeated. Suffice to say that it also brought back memories, not all of them pleasant. The simultaneous selfishness and drive for group harmony that characterizes Korean life is also skillfully dissected, as is the infuriating irrationality that they so constantly evince in both public and private life. Of all the sections, I thought that the politics one was the least interesting and weakest as far as authority on the subject went; for example, Breen claims that General Park has no successor...but he does--his DAUGHTER. The implication of a Korean woman president is not explored, though Breen does quite effectively update his book in a 2004 additional chapter that brought things up to speed with my own experiences in the country. If you want or need to know about Korea, this book is an absolue must-read primer.