A 1946 tourism or culture info book for Korea, written and illustrated during the Colonial Period, gives the traditional look (by Westerners) at Korea’s culture and customs. Color illustrations are vivid and traditional. You can sense the wonder of these two Westerners about the “orient,” which infuses both the reportage and commentary, as well as the quality of the artwork and the subjects selected for illustration. Still, it’s an interesting period look, though one that is glossed with sentimentality and charm. Sampling of illustrations below.
The Art of Korea: Highlights from the Collection of San Francisco’s Art Museum, by Kumja Paik Kim
The San Francisco Asian Art Museum has an exceptional collection of Korean art, extraordinary in breadth of periods, styles, mediums and scholarship.
The Comfort Women: Japan’s Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War, by George L. Hicks
An important history book, organized with clarity, without judgment, but with attempts to understand Japanese ethos and motivations that bred this atrocity.
Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea, by Keith Pratt
Published in 2006, this history of Korea provides a broad perspective on the traditions, culture, ancient foundations and recent divide of the peninsula.
Korea: The Search for Sovereignty, by Geoff Simons
This book gives a broad history of Korea, with a particular focus on key 20th century events. Particular attention is given to the dispute over North Korea’s controversial nuclear development program.
Korean Folk and Fairy Tales, Suzanne Crowder Han
A representative sampling of Korean storieswhich have been passed down from generation to generation through spoken and written traditions.
Culture and the State in Late Choson Korea, JaHyun Kim Haboush
Investigating the late sixteenth through the nineteenth century, this work looks at the shifting boundaries between the Choson state and the adherents of Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and popular religions.
The Dream of the Audience: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982), by Constance Lewallen
The catalogue of a retrospective exhibit of Cha’s work, held at a Berkeley gallery contains biographical narratives and interviews with fellow students/artists and teachers who were intimate with her experimental film/art/written language work.
Women and Confucian Cultures by Dorothy Ko, Jahyun Kim Haboush, Joan R. Piggott
This fascinating collection of writings examines the role and culture of women in the Confucian-regulated eras of China, Korea and Japan.
A Concise History of Korea by Michael J. Seth
If you will read only one book about Korean history, this is the one. Seth organizes and edits Korea’s rich and vast history into a digestible and coherent whole, covering its legendary origins and through the 19th century.