[KS] KSR 2002-09: _Bug_ Vol.5: Foreigners and Foreign Culture in Korea_, ed. by J. Scott Burgeson

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Wed Jul 3 04:40:56 EDT 2002

_Bug_ Vol.5: Foreigners and Foreign Culture in Korea_,ed. by J. Scott
Burgeson. Seoul: The Nalari Press. 2001. 178 pages. ISBN: 566-61-2419. 5000

Reviewed by Bernhard Seliger
Hanguk University of Foreign Studies

	It is always difficult to do justice in a review to a variety of
articles written by several authors. However, _Bug_ is somewhat different
in that a driving force behind it aims at making it an magazine with a
coherent view of 'cultural criticism'. _Bug_ 5 is the fifth issue of an
alternative magazine that is in essence a one-man enterprise, created and
edited by Scott Burgeson, an outlet for his thoughts and an expression of
his idea of cultural criticism. The
making his home in a y™gwan in Seoul, developed a keen interest in less
well-explored facts about Korea, as this recent volume, also translated
into Korean as _Palch'ikhan hangukhak_ ("Nasty Korean Studies"), shows. In
_Bug_, together with a few co-authors, he attempts to give a
non-conformist, 'underground' view of a wide field of cultural topics.

	Like all previous issues, _Bug_ 5 has a main theme, and this time
it is "foreigners and foreign culture in Korea." Innumerable articles have
been written on foreigners in Korea; nonetheless, _Bug_ 5 manages to
contribute a fresh perspective. Writers on this topic generally concentrate
on cultural clashes between foreigners and Koreans (and this aspect is also
present, beginning with a hilarious glossary of essential Korean terms for
beginners like 'ajumma' and 'ajosshi'), but here the focus is rather on
foreign communities in Korea and their culture, not only that brought from
home, but that developed within Korea.

	Four case studies treat examples of foreign culture in Korea--Texas
Street in Pusan, Itaewon, the Filipino community in Taehangno and Inchon's
Chinatown; several mini-interviews in each provide insight into foreigners'
lives within the country. However, a number of other items are included as
well: a lengthy interview with longtime resident Ken Kaliher, including
some of his early photos of Korea, give the reader a glimpse at the
transformation of Korean society in the last 30 years. Another piece draws
a portrait of U.S. Kim, a well-known custom tailor, and through him conveys
typical features of foreigners' life in Seoul. A rather conventional
assessment of major fast-food chains uses the time-honored approach of high
school magazines and rates each on such items as music, food and how
'green' (environmentally friendly) it is.  Accompanied by a long, pointless
dialogue about the advantages and disadvantages of each chain, this piece
leaves the reader disappointed. On the other hand, a witty review on books
on Korea written by foreigners is highly interesting. Equally interesting
is a story about North Korean film festivals and an interview with
German-born filmmaker Oliver Griem, living in South Korea, both of which
inevitably lead to a comparison of two film cultures worlds apart. Other
items include bits of a novel, manhwa style comics, reports on cultural
events, etc.

	The quality of the pieces certainly varies widely, and - as so
often - beauty is in the eye of the beholder, thus many articles might be
appreciated in widely differing ways by different readers.  My favorite was
the aforementioned review of books on Korea, the one I liked least a satire
entitled 'The Most Famous Foreigner Who Ever Came to Korea" that ridicules
Christianity in the country.  The relationship between the frequent use of
profanity in some articles and the perspective of cultural criticism is not
clear to me, but I am sure there must be an explanation.  Except for this
gratuitous use of obscenities and a sometimes heavy dose of amour propre
from the editor, _Bug_ 5 is well worth purchasing and makes for
entertaining reading with its refreshing and iconoclastic take on Korean
Studies.  As Burgeson advises, 'keep on Bugging'.

Seliger, Bernhard 2002
Review of _Bug_ Vol.5: Foreigners and Foreign Culture in Korea_, ed. by J.
Scott Burgeson (2001)
Korean Studies Review_ 2002, no. 9
Electronic file: http://www.koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr02-09.htm

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