202: The Birth of Korean Cool, with Euny Hong


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For Episode 202 of Smells Like Human Spirit, Guy Evans interviews Euny Hong, a journalist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among many other places. Euny’s most recent book, ‘The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture’ examines the 21st Century rise of South Korea becoming a global leader in business, technology, education, and – as the title implies – pop culture.

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About The Birth of Korean Cool:

In 1985, 12-year-old Euny Hong, an American, entered a Korean public school system that thrashed students for wearing unzipped jackets; her elite Hyundai apartment building regularly faced brownouts and water shutoffs. Two decades later, Korea had leapfrogged from third-world military dictatorship to first-world liberal democracy on the cutting edge of global technology. It paid back a $57 billion loan from the IMF, wired the entire country for superfast Internet, and created the Ministry of Culture to spread the Korean Brand worldwide. Samsung, once known as ‘Samsuck’, now generates 1/5 of South Korea’s GDP and dominates the global smartphone market.

Hong pairs stories from her own childhood, spent first in Chicago and then in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul, with in-depth reporting and exclusive interviews. She spoke with government officials and cultural icons – Samsung execs, admins at Korea’s National Institute for International Education, Michelin-starred chefs, rapper Psy of the viral hit “Gangnam Style” – to show us how one country made an unprecedented leap into the 21st century to become a global leader in business, technology, education, and pop culture.

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