SOUTH KOREA (HARDCOVER) - MARK EDWARD HARRIS
Few lands have been more devastated by war and conflict than 20th-century Korea. Yet the perseverance of the peninsula s people, though still divided six decades after the signing of the Armistice to stop the Korea War, has managed to keep their culture and shared history intact. For its part, South Korea has emerged as a 21st century economic and industrial powerhouse while maintaining for posterity its cultural institutions and historical structures as well as embracing new ones such as the global phenomenon such as of K-Pop. I started my exploration of South Korea s rich history with a visit to the tomb of Sejong the Great in Gyeonggi Province. While so many world leaders are associated with conquests and wars, it s inspiring to learn about a leader who gave instead of took to earn his fame. He is most known for developing Hangeul,the modern Korean phonetic writing system that brought reading and writing to the masses. After reading The Road to Sampo by Hwang Sok-yong, I came across a quote by the author that was highlighted in the book s afterward by novelist Bang Hyun-seok. It s perhaps symbolic of what South Korea as well as the peninsula as a whole has had to endure, particularly in the tumultuous twentieth century: Without exception, you have to go through Hell even for a low level of achievement. You have to overcome your limitations, and then you can go on for a little while, but soon, before complacency sets in, you need to prepare to go through Hell again. Perhaps it s history itself that has given the inhabitants of the land of the Morning Calm such admirable fortitude.
June 25, 2013