As the writer, Marine Vidal says by way of introduction:
Back to school! Vacation time is over, but no need to depress; we can still travel the world through a good book. What better estrangement than to read about South Korea? A recommended pick isPop Goes Korea, by longtime Canadian expat journalist Mark Russell.
I think that article is the closest thing I have ever had to an actual profile. It is kind of an odd feeling, and I sympathize for all the people who have suffered through the same experience for one of my articles. But the reporter was very nice, the experience was mostly painless, and the story was quite complimentary, which is about all you can ask for.
Thanks to Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling, I just discovered this old article from 1963 in Stars & Stripes about the godfather of Korean rock’n'roll, Shin Joong-hyun (refered to in the article by his stage name when he played for the US Army, Jackie Shin). It is a short article, but complementary, saying that Shin played “the meanest guitar in Korea.”
I am not sure how accurate all the details are in this story (for instance, I thought that Shin got started before 1962, and I think he was born before 1940), but it is interesting that Shin was getting noticed early in his career. I did not know about him winning the KBS jazz contest.
I have said many times before that one of my favorite websites in the world is ehistory.kr, a site full of thousands of old pictures and videos of Korea going back decades. I can waste spend hours there, just trying out the search function and seeing what I can find.
Recently, though, I hit the mother lode. While looking for video about music in the 1960s and 1970s, I stumbled across this wonderful video — an anti-pot PSA from November 1975. That is just days before the Korean government launched a big crackdown on marijuana usage that rounded up dozens of celebrities (including the great rock star Shin Joong-hyun) in December.
It is a great film, like all such marijuana-scare movies. You have general craziness, addiction, jumping off of great heights, death, depravity, and a stern doctor explaining how smoking pot will make your brain fall out. Sorry I do not have the time to subtitle it … but, really, I think you will get the gist pretty easily.
Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music and Internet Culture is the only English-language book to examine the whole of Korea's entertainment industry and how it became such a powerhouse over the past 15 years. With profiles of many of Korea's top stars (including Lee Byung-hun and Rain), Pop Goes Korea features chapters on movies, music, television, comic books, the Internet, and more.
What the Critics Are Saying
Wall Street Journal:
"Mr. Russell's book is the first by a non-Korean to explain the rise of Korea's entertainment industries. With lots of pictures, lists (top TV shows, most expensive movies, worst flops) and sidebar articles, the book could hardly be more approachable."
London Korea Links:
"...a lively description of the industry and infrastructure which makes the creation and enjoyment of these stars possible."
"Five stars out of five"
"The book reveals not only the challenges of Korean pop culture but also triumphs and feats in entertainment and arts with poignant analysis and anecdotes to help the industry move in a better direction. "
To buy your own copy of Pop Goes Korea, you can check out these websites: