The Koreans: Passion and Grace

Russel Warren Howe, Author
Russel Warren Howe, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $12.95 (275p) ISBN 978-0-15-647185-5
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
With the 1988 Summer Olympics on the horizon, journalist Howe (Black Africa, etc.) provides a timely primer on the game siteKorea. In two decades, the country has climbed from an ``agriculturally proud but poor'' position to industrialization and comparative wealth, yet Koreans preserve many ancient traditions and ceremonies. Howe surveys Korean art, architecture, education, family and business relationships, work ethics, legends, cuisine, dress, performing arts and the national sport (t'aekwondo or martial arts). Despite a history of invasions and authoritarianism, this nation, shows Howe, is a ``potential Eden,'' where wildlife flourishes at the Demilitarized Zone and massive reforestation has ``replenished the country's trees to as many as there must have been at the dawn of time.'' The engaging core of this book is a detailed examination of religious beliefs (``a life with the spirits'' in which shamanism predominates) and the millennium-old pharmacopoeia available from the local yak-jong-sang (alchemist). Yet, the book also portrays a nation of overachievers who are ``obsessed with the future.'' Howe highlights such striking contrasts throughout this absorbing, informed and satisfying study. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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