Saturday, October 25, 2008

Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles

Korea: A Walk Through The Land of Miracles
Author: Simon Winchester
Harper Perennial, 2004 (originally published in 1988)
282 pages

I bought this book at Bandi and Luni's Bookstore in Seoul, thinking (by the appealing cover and subtitle) that I'd stumbled upon something really good. Simon Winchester has written lots of books, with several of them (The Professor and the Madman, Krakatoa, The Map That Changed the World) appearing on bestseller lists and receiving high praise. So I was let down hard when this book didn't meet my expectations.

The author went on a walking journey of South Korea - from tourist haven Cheju Island to Panmunjom up by the DMZ and border with North Korea - in the late 1980s. Along the way he met some really weird people - most of them not even Korean but American or Irish or British. The American soldiers were a rough and rowdy bunch who all seemed to be sex maniacs. The other foreigners seemed slightly mad and/or alcoholic. His portrayal of the Koreans he met seemed to be just as stereotypical.

The only part about the book I liked (if "liked" is the right word) was the very first part, which was a chapter providing some historical perspective and background.

I was so disappointed, I couldn't read it all. Too bad, because having been to Korea I was really interested in reading a good book about it.

Rating: 2 stars, and that's being generous.