Asia’s new king­dom of cool

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS MONTHLY -

K-POP has been a good ve­hi­cle to in­tro­duce South Korea to the world, says self-pro­fessed Kore­aphile Daniel Tu­dor.

“So you like this boy band? There is a whole coun­try con­nected to them, why don’t you learn some­thing about it too? This is what I want say to the young people with my next book A Geek In Korea,” he en­thuses, though quick to deny he is a fan of K-pop.

What he wants is for the fans to look be­yond the sac­cha­rine tunes and hair prod­ucts.

“If you visit Korea for a K-pop con­cert, af­ter the show or af­ter you get tired of wait­ing in front of the artist man­age­ment com­pa­nies, you should try and ex­plore the other in­ter­est­ing things about Korea,” he adds.

With its sub­ti­tle Dis­cov­er­ing Asia’s New King­dom Of Cool, A Geek In Korea gives you bite-sized fun snip­pets, the A to Z about South Korea: from its iden­tity to its In­ter­net ma­nia, from pop cul­ture to sub­cul­tures, and the au­thor’s own favourite places in the coun­try.

This is not a travel guide, though, he in­sists: “It is more of a cul­ture guide and is com­ple­men­tary to a guide­book. It’s for people who have some cu­rios­ity about Korea be­cause they have heard some Korean pop song, or watched some Korean tele­vi­sion show.” Take the chap­ters on and for ex­am­ple. They are not only il­lu­mi­nat­ing for those who find the grow­ing craze for Korean celebri­ties mind-bog­gling; those who are al­ready fans of the per­fectly-sculpted per­son­al­i­ties can also learn some­thing new.

Then there are the food sec­tions, which give handy tid­bits of in­for- ma­tion about what to eat in South Korea for those who are not fa­mil­iar with the cui­sine.

What makes this Geek guide a good read is Tu­dor’s love for the sub­ject, which shows through in his ir­rev­er­ent but to­tally in­sight­ful take on life there.

This is es­pe­cially ob­vi­ous when he talks about his favourite nonK-pop mu­sic stars, es­pe­cially Kim Yoon-ah, the lead singer of one of the most suc­cess­ful Korean in­die bands, Jau­rim.

“What many K-pop fans are not aware of is that there is more than the man­u­fac­tured pop genre in Korea. The mu­sic in­dus­try is so rich with di­verse mu­sic scenes and one of the best places to check them out is Hong­dae.”

The heart­land of youth cul­ture in Seoul, Hong­dae is home to many small mu­sic clubs and cafes that hold live mu­sic events and gigs for the dif­fer­ent mu­sic gen­res, from hip hop to rock, elec­tronic to reg­gae. Free open-air shows are also a reg­u­lar fea­ture of this area.

Of course, a chap­ter on South Korean mu­sic would not be com­plete with­out 2012’s big­gest global star, Psy, who Tu­dor also in­ter­viewed for his book. Was he sur­prised that Psy’s Gangnam Style be­came such a world­wide hit?

“Psy him­self was sur­prised,” Tu­dor quips. “But it was great that some­one like him be­came fa­mous be­cause he showed people that Korea’s not what they thought it was. Be­fore Psy, the com­mon im­age of Korea was in­dus­trial, con­crete and bor­ing. Psy showed that Korea is mod­ern and fun.”

A Geek In Korea will be out in ma­jor book­stores by June.

In­fec­tious pas­sion: ‘Some­thing about Korea just fits with my per­son­al­ity,’ says au­thor daniel Tu­dor. — OnG SOOn HIn/The Star

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