Philip Gowman over at London Korea Links has just written a post titled WHO'S WHO IN THE KOREAN BLOGOSPHERE. Where I was more than a little shocked to see that my blog was No. 19 in the Blog Juice ranking. Maybe he did not include a lot of Korea-related blogs when he made that list.
Anyhow, I appreciate the "juice," so thanks to all who read this blog.
But in reading Philip's column and looking at the Juice List made me realize who little good information is available about Korea through blogs (in English, anyhow). I think things were much better two years ago than today.
For example, the big daddy MARMOT'S HOLE. Back when the Marmot had a different job, it provided him with early access to a lot of breaking news, making his site the place to go to learn about the latest happenings in Korea. That job also allowed him some pretty good insights about the news, too (what was or was not being said in the usual English-language news stories, or who a lot of the actors were in the big stories).
Today, however, the Marmot has a lot of other things on his plate and a different job, so that newsy aspect of his blog is much lighter than it once was. Plus the comments section has grown pretty wild and unkept for a couple of years now (maybe more, I cannot remember). It is pretty interesting, though, to go back into his archives from three or four years ago and look at some of the people who used to comment there regularly.
But the current Marmot Hole does have a lot of great photography of Korea, so that is pretty cool. And when time and events permit, he can still get deeper into current events than any other blogs.
Another long-gone but not forgotten blog was ORANCKAY's, which is apparently not even active anymore. I see that the registry has not expired, but there is not even a home page to see anymore. But when Oranckay's blog was going strong, it provided a very insightful look into Korea, from a guy who had lived nearly two decades here, and who had great language skills and connections.
No. 18 on the Juice List is the now comatose HANJUNGUI KARUCHIM, by Finnish smart guy Antti Leppanen. Antti was working on his PhD in Anthropology, looking at Korean shop culture, giving him an interesting and different perspective on Korea. And he knew everything about Sillim-dong, too. But about a year ago Antti decided he had had enough of blogging and has since pretty much shut down.
Together, I think those three sites were among the best ways to learn about Korea in English. But today two are gone and one has changed into something rather different.
GUSTS OF POPULAR FEELING remains a very good blog, looking at urban history and modern culture, with the occasional commentary on the news.
After that, things get pretty thin. The Korea section of the scholarly FROG IN THE WELL blog gets few updates and does not have a lot (although some of the articles there can be gold).
Gord Sellar's blog is not newsy or scholarly, but it can be quite interesting. Plus how often do you get to read someone who attended the Clarion science-fiction writing workshop?
JOSHING GNOME can also tell a pretty good story, with more than a little insight into Korea.
Sometimes it seems like just about everyone has a movie blog, and there are no shortage in Korea, too. Of course Darcy Paquet's KOREAN FILM PAGE is the place to start (with subsections for several good blogs, including Tom Giammarco's SEEN IN JEONJU quite interesting and history-filled one).
FRANK'S KOREA WEB PORTAL has a whole bunch of links (although I am not sure how often it is updated or how current it is. It is also home to the venerable Korean Studies Discussion List.
Philip's links and commentary at the LONDON KOREAN LINKS is pretty strong, too.
For music, you have INDIEFUL ROK and my other blog KOREA GIG GUIDE. Or, if you are a 15-year-old girl, SOOMPI.
And...? I am sure there is more out there, depending on your tastes and interests. For example, I have almost no interest in slice-of-life blogs, so have no idea what the best are for Korea. Nor am I much interested in Korean TV dramas or celebrity gossip (if you like that sort of thing, I'm sure you will have no problems finding those blogs).
If I am missing anything really good (whether obvious or obscure), I would love to know about it. As I said earlier, I think the Korea blog scene is rather less useful than it was 2-3 years ago. But I would love to be proven wrong.
UPDATE: Julian's suggestions in my comments section inspired a response from me. One that I think worth adding to the original post, so (with a little editing) here goes:
In regards to Grand Narrative, Brian in Jeollado and Korea Beat... IMAO, Korea Beat is the more interesting site... somewhat. At least they are providing access to stories that do not usually make it into the English-language world.
I do not read the other two much. Nothing particularly wrong with them... they are just not to my taste. Too talky, perhaps? Like the Metropolitician, I find they are more about opinion and less about adding original information about Korea.
Let's see... any other top-20 Juice blogs worth mentioning...
ROK Drop has some useful perspectives, particularly on military issues. Although he can sound a little whiny at times, and takes way too many points from American right-wing AM radio/websites. But definitely a useful option.
And... I guess the other ones just don't strike my fancy. Not terrible (many are quite good). But I do not think they are very useful for learning more about Korea.
As for blogs not in the top-20, I should add the Dramabeans is a fun blog about TV dramas, even though I claim not to like such things. But it is probably the best one out there.
Hey! Leonid Petrov has a blog. About North Korea. That is kind of neat and worth checking out.
Of course, there are hundreds of Korea-related blogs out there and I would not pretend to be any sort of great authority on the subject.
But I feel confident returning to my original point -- if you want to understand Korean news, current affairs and the country in general, I think things are not as good today as they were a couple of years ago (at least from a blogging perspective). Maybe more sources are around now, but none of them compare to the top three of the past.