Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: October 2013

Le Snowpiercer est a venir


So, all of a sudden this blog is experiencing a big uptick in readers from France. And most of them seem to be coming via Google searches for Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer.

And, well, what do you know, Snowpiercer has a release date in France — Oct. 30, according to IMDB. Where, of course, it will be released under the name of the original French comic, Le Transperceneige.

Anyhow, bonjour and hello to the fine people from France who have stumbled across this blog.


Here’s the French trailer (which is rather well done):

Tuesday Morning Links

  • For the Korea JoongAng Daily’s 13-year anniversary issue — and to mark the 60-year anniversary of the end of the Korean War — I wrote an overview of the history of Korean movies. You probably know the broad strokes of this story already … However, I was lucky enough to get some wonderful details from actor Ahn Sung-ki, producer Jonathan Kim, and the big boss of CJ Entertainment Miky Lee. Huge thanks to all of them for taking the time to talk to me. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • Interesting article on Lee Shin-young, who is reportedly the first female horse trainer in Asia. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • Unfortunately, one big detail in the previous story was wrong — Lee Shin-young was not Korea’s first female jockey. That honor goes to Lee Ok Rae, who rode back in 1975 (Horse Racing in Korea blog)
  • Google vs. Korean government over future of Internet freedom in Korea (New York Times)
  • Something funny about Korea complaining about Chinese smokers. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • Hard to believe, but I can still remember a time when smoking was allowed on airplanes on domestic flights in North America. But one by one, countries are slowly turning against the (smelly) (and sublime) habit.
  • Today, the International Herald Tribune is no more. It rebrands as the International New York Times. INYT? Doesn’t exactly scan well, does it? As my first article for the IHT was nearly 10 years ago, I’m a bit  sad about the change. For me, when I think of the Herald Tribune, I am always reminded of that scene from Breathless, when we first meet the Jean Seberg character:

K-Pop Now! is nearly here

This website has been teasing some coming news for a long time, but I never really said what it was. So there’s been some delays and setbacks and whatnot. But, at last, one project has gotten close enough I guess I should just announce it:


It’s a short, but hopefully sweet book all about K-pop, with some background into the genre and an overview of the best bands out there today.

It’s supposed to be coming out in Asia soon, followed by the United States and the West in April.

Here is the page, which always feels very official.

Anyhow, Tuttle Publishing has been really cool throughout the whole process, and I suspect they’ll do a lot to make sure everyone hears about this book. It’s all pretty exciting.

Strangely, K-Pop Now also seems to have a couple of reviews already over at GoodReads, even though no one has read it yet. Got to love the Internet.

Protecting the elderly in Korea

With Korea’s population rapidly aging — 12.2% of its population is elderly now, and that is expected to pass 14% by 2018 — there is a lot of talk about the welfare of older Koreans (like in this JoongAng column today). But as this international survey makes clear, this is one area in which Korea is terribly behind.

According to the Global Age Watch Index, Korea was ranked just 67th for the well being of its elderly population. Most of that is driven by income insecurity, in which Korea ranked 90th.

Suddenly Park Geun-hye’s promise of 200,000 won/month for all elderly citizens makes a lot more moral sense … and it is clear why it was so much more expensive than she anticipated.

Happy to see that Canada was 5th.  Interesting that Japan ranked 10th. I’m surprised that Japan did so poorly on income security (27th). It was health that really helped it ranking.

With parents in Canada and in-laws in Korea, the difference is pretty clear to me. One problem with Korea have grown so much, so fast (and, for many years, so young) is that it never really put in place infrastructure for older citizens. That is going to be a major challenge in the years ahead. But, really, for a country as successful as Korea, the current state of things clearly is not acceptable.

Tuesday morning links

  • Korean movies on track for another record year. The numbers are pretty incredible. On Oct. 4, Korean films passed 100 million tickets for the year, 47 days faster than last year. In 1999, Shiri became the first Korean film ever to sell more than 5 million tickets; this year, eight have done so. (Hankyoreh)
  • An interview with great Korean director Im Kwon-taek. (Hankyoreh)
  • Seoul’s suicide rate dipped last year, 1st time since 2006. Seoul has lowest suicide rate of major Korean cities. Of course, even the latest, lower number is still way too high. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • Wish led the weekend box office in Korea. Face Reader was third, but closing in on 9 million admissions (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • The end of the Dream Hub project in Yongsan has left (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • When I first came to Korea, back in the 1990s, one of its most defining characteristics to me were the long lines outside every payphone everywhere, everyone with pager in hand. Funny to think how few payphones there  now … But there are some that still get some decent use. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • You should check out Robert Koehler’s photos on his Tumblr feed. Lots of good stuff. I especially liked his recent pics of the Leeum Museum in Seoul. (


Thursday morning links

It’s a holiday in Korea … but, sadly, not for us newspaper drones. I’ll be heading into the office soon. But in the meantime, here are a few links for you:

  • Fascinating – 8 Korean foods that have been forgotten. (Chosun Ilbo)
  • A short profile of Robert Fouser and the hanok of Seochon in central Seoul. I used to live close to that neighborhood, years ago before the hanok revival. But it was a great part of town for walking and exploring. (Chosun Ilbo)
  • Good look at the tough conditions faced by Korean film crews – and how conditions are finally starting to improve. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • The saga of the missing NLL transcript continues. Last year, the transcript of what former-President Roh Moo-hyun told Kim Jong-il about the Northern Limit Line was discovered to be missing from the National Archive. The right said Roh was trying to cover up something dubious (or worse). The left said the right was red-baiting. But now Roh’s words have been discovered on a computer in the late-president’s retirement home in Bongha. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
  • I saw the band 0Shino (pronounced “yeong-shinho”) Tuesday night and quite liked them. If you get the chance, I recommend checking them out.

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