Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: February 2015

What have we here …

Happy day, as I found this parcel waiting for me when I got home.

Pullocho_Parcel2Pullocho parcel1

Seriously, I can’t really believe it’s an actual printed book. I’ve been so convinced that someone would go wrong, even at the last minute. And yet, here it is, in the flesh.

You know how some authors say their books are like their babies and they love them all the same? Well, that’s garbage — I love this book the most.


Young-hee and Pullocho—2 early reviews

So, Kirkus has come out with what I think is the first review of Young-hee and the Pullocho. But they didn’t seem terribly impressed. On the positive side:

Russell enriches his debut novel with many details borrowed from Korean folk tales. Fans of stories within stories will enjoy the tales included here,

But the reviewer also seems to think that young readers will find the contents confusing and did not like how I started things off in the middle of the action, then looped back. The word “mundane” was used.

One the other hand, a friend of mine gave the book to her 9-year-old daughter, who apparently enjoyed it immensely and did not find it confusing at all.

“It’s amazing!”  –  4.75/5 stars

The mom said she likes it, too, although her daughter raced ahead and read it all first. Funny that a middle-aged reviewer worried a book would be confusing, while a 9-year-old had no problem. I know which review I prefer.

My first Boing Boing (kind of)

It looks like my name has graced the iconic Boing Boing website for the first time. Yay.

Well, it’s kind of there. A little bit. Actually, the very cool Colin Marshall was invited to provide a bit of guest blogging. And for one of his first posts, he linked to his entire Korea series from his Notebook on Cities and Culture blog. So  there I am, fourth on the list.

Okay, it’s a pretty minor mention, but I’ll take it all the same. Thanks, Colin.

Phish Tales

Long wall of text coming. Sorry.

Anyhow, no, I’m not talking about the jam band. “Phish” as in trying to scam someone to get their personal information, like passwords or credit card details, usually so you can steal their money. Phishing is quite a problem in Korea, often turning up in news stories, but in the last week, two phishing incidents hit pretty close to home — some scammers tried to steal from a relative yesterday (let’s call her “F1”), and the friend of a friend actually lost 20 million won to another scammer earlier in the week (“F2”).

In each case, the method used was rather similar, so I wonder if this is a problem that’s getting worse, or if two incidents just happened to hit close to home. These phishing attacks are pretty devious. Like most grifts, they’re designed to take advantage of human nature and our personal blind spots.

The scam begins with a phone call. A guy claiming to be with the police says that you have been targeted in a bank fraud and identity theft. They’ve caught the guy, but there will be lawsuits and all sorts of legal hassles. They warn that not taking care of this right away could result in months of trouble and your bank accounts could be frozen for a time.

But then they offer a solution — if you go to the police’s website, you can register your information and protect yourself. Of course, the URL they mention is not “” and not the real Korean police website. It looks the same, but it is “.com”.

Throughout, they keep talking fast, trying to stop you from thinking, lulling you into a rhythm, taking advantage of most people’s tendency to want to please others and be respectful. They also know your name and same bits of personal information (easily bought on the black market), designed to make them sound official.

Luckily for F1, once they started saying they needed her to transfer them money, she got really suspicious. She said she needed to check their info and would call back, asking them for their names and departments so she could call them back. They said to use the number on her caller ID, but she said no, she’d call the main police switchboard and the operator could pass her along to them. They immediately hung up.

F2 was not so lucky, and sent a lot of money.

It’s easy to look down on people who get scammed, but grifters are smart at recognizing glitches in human nature, and “hacking” our behaviour, like how a computer hacker breaks into online networks. That said, there needs to be a lot more education in Korea about how to protect your personal information.

More annoying, though, was the response of the real police. F1 called the Mapo Cyber Police division, but their response was “If you didn’t lose any money, don’t worry about it.” They said they could do anything about it and weren’t interested in filing a report or gathering information. So lazy and amateurish (and, unfortunately, typical).

tl:dr — Don’t ever give away your personal information over the phone and be careful about online. Korea’s lack of information security is getting ever more dangerous.


‘C’est si bon’ with English subtitles

Well, it looks like Ode to My Father has just about finished its run in the theaters in Korea. Or at least an end to the screenings with English subtitles.

Fortunately, something potentially a lot more interesting is taking its place — a new movie about Korean music history titled C’est si bon. The movie is the story of the C’est Si Bon club, one of the more famous music clubs from the 1960s and ’70s, and one of the more famous acts of the period, Twin Folio.


Twin Folio was a folk duo, comprised of the classically trained Song Chang-sik and medical student Yoon Hyun-joo. Their first recording was a Shin Joong-hyun cover on the soundtrack to the movie Green Apple (which I believe has gone missing). They did a split album with the Pearl Sisters in 1969 and then an album of their own in 1970, but by then they had already broken up. Song went on to have a good solo career, becoming a noted songwriter.

Given that Twin Folio was a duo, but the movie has changed them to a trio for “dramatic purposes”, that’s a pretty big red flag. And I was pretty excited about Go-Go 70s, too, but that was a letdown. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky this time.

Anyhow, if you want to see the movie with English subtitles, it is playing at the CGV theaters in Shinchon, Yeouido, Yongsan and Cine de Chef in Apgujeong.


  • Feb. 7 (Sat.) – 5:55pm


  • Feb. 7 – 5pm


  • Feb. 8 – 7:05pm

Cine de Chef:

  • Feb. 7 – 10:10pm
  • Feb. 8 – 10:10pm
  • Feb. 9 – 3:30pm
  • Feb. 10 – 10:10pm

Here’s the trailer, with English subtitles:

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