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Books on Korea

Korea

A thorough coverage of the history of Korea, from its beginnings to the present, with lots of suggestions for further reading. Personally, I hated history at school but this account is so packed full of information that everyone will find something of interest. Sadly this is yet another site that seems to have disappeared from the web, so if you want to read it you will need to use the marvellous Internet Archive which has a copy of most of the site.
The history is broken down into the following periods:
  • Ancient History   (pre-918 A.D.)
  • Koryô Dynasty   (918-1392)
  • Chosôn Dynasty   (1392-1910)
  • Colonial Period   (1910-1945)
  • Liberation and the Korean War   (1945-1953)
  • Contemporary Korea   (Post 1953)
Essential to the understanding of this interesting country, you can find this history on the Internet Archive
 
"Koreans use their own unique alphabet called Hangeul. It is considered to be one of the most efficient alphabets in the world and has garnered unanimous praise from language experts for its scientific design and excellence."
That came as rather a surprise, but as you read the article you will see that the claim has some merit. Up to the 15th century the educated elite used the Chinese character system but the common people had no way to express themselves in writing. King Sejong, considered one of the greatest rulers in the history of Korea, envisioned a set of letters that was uniquely Korean and easily learnable, rendering it accessible and usable for the common people. He proclaimed "Being of foreign origin, Chinese characters are incapable of capturing uniquely Korean meanings. Therefore, many common people have no way to express their thoughts and feelings. Out of my sympathy for their difficulties, I have created a set of 28 letters. The letters are very easy to learn, and it is my fervent hope that they improve the quality of life of all people."
As a result of King Sejong's ideas, illiteracy is virtually nonexistent in Korea, and astonishingly the logical construction of the language is very suitable for mechanisation.
Thoroughly recommended at http://english.gg.go.kr/renewal/living/learn/hangeul.jsp
(The original article that I found can still be found on http://web.archive.org/web/20021201201150/http://www.korea.net/learnaboutkorea/hangeul/hangeul.html)
 
This could have been a really great site, as it contains a lot of neutrally presented information and a wealth of excellent pictures.
It's an interestingly written piece which contains some thought-provoking observations. For example, I thought it was a rather sad reflection on "progress" to read:
"From our room in the Yangakdo Hotel we have a nice view over the city of Pyongyang. Unlike my home in Shanghai it is very quiet and peaceful. In the night it is even possible to see the starry sky. No noise or bright advertisement disturbs the atmosphere."
Are we really creating a planet where to be able to see the stars is a luxury?
However, in this particular case the price seems to be compulsory attendance at a number of places that might not be universally regarded as great tourist attractions. It depends on your taste.
Although the original article has, like so many, disappeared from the ever-more commercial web you can still make up your own mind at the Internet Archive
 
Here you have all the useful information for tourists, such as tour companies, visa requirements, customs etc. plus a good description of the various tourist attractions that you might want to see. The site is well organised, and the tourist attractions section is always available at the right hand side of the page. The attractions are broken down into:
  • Mountains
  • Tourist Resorts
  • Cultural Heritage
and everything is well described with good text and pictures.
I have always loved the English saying "like the 13th chime of the clock, it casts doubt on all that has gone before", but the 13th chime meant little in Pyongyang where the huge bell rang 28 times at 10pm and 33 times at 4am.
This interesting information and much more was at:
http://nk.chosun.com/english/tourism/tourism.html?ACT=nk_tour_tourist
but strangely it has not only disappeared but is also prevented from access at the Internet Archive.
 
The "Travel Korea Clickable Map" is like a kind of magic magnifying glass that allows you to zoom in ever closer to the map, finally revealing an enormous wealth of well written material on the particular area you have zoomed in on. At first it seems that all you are ever going to see is more and more detailed maps, but persevere and you will be rewarded with an exceptional information resource.
The english at times can be a little unusual ("We are doing our best to adorn our city to become the wordly cultural tourists city which breathe with human and nature all together") but that only helps to add to the flavour.
Definitely a good way to visit South Korea but the site is another casualty of progress and has disappeared from http://jforge.com/tk/
The less interesting but more marketing oriented replacement is at http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto
 
Life in Korea presents travel information for over 350 destinations and attractions throughout South Korea. In addition there are sections on food & drink, shopping, night-life, sports and culture. Well presented and easy to navigate, a useful reference site when finally planning your trip to South Korea.
There is also a fascinating section on Sports and Games. From bull fighting (bull vs bull), through Korean Chess and Kite Flying to a rather agressive sounding see-saw game for ladies, there is something here to keep everyone amused:
http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Travel2/
 
Hotel accommodation in Korea is best booked through a reputable agent who can secure you substantial discounts. The best deals we have found are using the HotelClub reservations system.

SOUTH KOREA:

 
For comprehensive information on Korea you will find the best source are the
ConnectedGlobe North Korea page
and the
ConnectedGlobe South Korea page
which will guide you through the most useful information available.

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East Asia in Focus
Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional This document was last updated 29 January 2010
2010 Graham G Hawker