NOTES ON ENTERTAINMENT, CULTURE AND MORE FROM KOREA (OR WHEREVER)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blogging the Blogs

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.

10 comments:

Julian Warmington said...

http://koreabeat.com/

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/

Julian Warmington said...

http://thegrandnarrative.wordpress.com/

Mark Russell said...

Yeah, I know those blogs. Thanks for the reminders.

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.

Which leads back 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.

Other notes: 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. (www.dramabeans.com)

Hey! Leonid Petrov has a blog. About North Korea. That is kind of neat and worth checking out. (leonidpetrov.wordpress.com)

Mark Russell said...

Oh, and I did not comment on North Korea related blogs. Not because they are bad blogs. But because I am tired of the subject and cannot stand to read more "North Korea about to fall," "North Korea to continue for another 100 years" stories. Should we get anything resembling real news or change out of the North, I will gratefully change my opinion.

Brian said...

The topic of this list has started quite an interesting round of conversation both here and on the LKL site. As I brought up over there---but my comment isn't showing up---and as you mentioned here, a lot of the old guard is gone, but they're still regarded as the "big boys," so to speak. Big Hominid, Iceberg, Party Pooper, Asia Pages, Orancky, etc., yet those folks hardly do anything anymore, and some haven't updated in years.

It's refreshing to see more bloggers in the game (and admittedly I didn't start reading blogs until about two years ago, and then it was just Marmot, Occidentalism, and Lost Nomad that I'd read). Maybe some of the newer blogs are "talky," but I wonder if that's what people are in the market for. That is, people can get news for themselves, and are often looking for perspectives to tie stories together or to add an interesting angle. That's why I find sites like Gusts of Popular Feeling and Grand Narrative interesting.

(In my defense I will say that I do a lot of my posts for the benefit of Google, since there isn't much English-language information out there about Jeollanam-do).

So I don't think the scene is in too bad of shape. If anything I'm relieved that it's opened up a little more and allowed younger, newer bloggers to have their say. Unfortunate, though, that the ones who get a lot of the attention are still the old ones I mentioned above, the ones who haven't contributed anything in years.

Mark Russell said...

Hi Brian:

Thanks a lot for the comments, and for taking my post with grace. I was not trying to beat anyone up. I know I was not doing a great job of expressing myself.

I guess what I meant by "talky" was blogs that concentrate on providing new/different analysis to the Korea that we already know. Which is fine. Just not something that I personally am as interested in these days.

Considering how poor a job the English-language newspapers do at education people about Korea (and the Korean-language newspapers at times, too), what I am really interested in are sources of new information. People who understand Korea at a much deeper level than I do.

Honestly, I was not much interested in most of the old-school blogs. There were three I quite liked, but many of the others you mentioned did not excite me much.

Brendon Carr's Korea Law Blog is a great example of a site that provides information about Korea that most people do not know. If only we could get a doctor and a political aide to write similarly (or other people with jobs like that).

Thanks again for writing in. I really appreciate it.

thegrandnarrative said...

Julian, thanks for mentioning the blog. And in a way Mark too, for it’s always nice to when my blog is mentioned in the same sentence as the Metropolitican’s and Brian’s!

Brian, it’s a pity that your comment didn’t make it to LKL, as your point about the “big boys” of blogging is much more eloquent than the comment I made there myself.

But one thing I could possibly add to that, especially as someone who’s been in Korea longer than most, is mentioning the difference between when those big bloggers got started and today. When I got my first computer in Korea in 2003,there was very little available, and so the Marmot was literally a godsend, and for years the first thing I read in the morning. But since then there’s been such an explosion in the number of blogs and English-language media sources in Korea that it’s difficult to have access to the internet and not know what’s happening in Korea these days. Before I started my own blog last year, I was already tired of reading the same news story in up to a dozen blogs on the same day, usually with minimal commentary, and so I figured why bother adding to the noise?

But Mark, while I hate to sound ungracious, and especially to be so negative in my first ever comment on your blog, I have to say that I think you mischaracterize Brian’s, the Metropolitician’s, and my own blog when you say that they all “concentrate on providing new/different analysis to the Korea that we already know.” Of course you’re entitled to your opinions, and if you don’t like those blogs then that’s cool, but I must ask who is this “we” you’re describing that “already know” the things discussed in our blogs?

Rather than speaking for other blogs (and maybe mischaracterizing them myself!), if I just confine myself to what I’ve talked about on my own blog in recent months, women’s body images, then sure, there are certainly tens of thousands of expats who will have mentioned at some point that, say, Korean women have issues with dieting and also seem to want to look Caucasian, and hundreds of bloggers who’ve maybe posted a picture of an ad to a plastic surgery clinic and given a brief commentary on it. But other than that supposed knowledge of the issue all expats share, I’ll dammed if I can find many other expats spending so much of their time and money finding as many books and academic journal articles on the subject as they can, analyzing them to pieces, and then presenting the fruits of that analysis to readers on the internet, all the while motivated by little more than a desire to help themselves and others figure out why that aspect of Korea is the way it is.

Sure, that leads to long “talky” posts, and comments too(!), and on the internet people don’t usually want to spend 15 mins or more on a single post on a single blog. But like Brian says, there are some people on the lookout for perspectives that tie news stories together rather than merely presenting them. I admit I usually don’t do that literally, but I do try to present the bigger picture; after all, that’s what “The Grand Narrative” literally means.

Mark Russell said...

Hi James:

Thanks a lot for your comment, too. I am not used to all this attention.

Anyhow, as I said already, I was not trying to slam people. In the world of commentary blogs, I think The Grand Narrative is very good. Right up there with Popular Gusts and Brian in Jeolla.

I was just trying to say that there is a certain type of blog that is no longer represented. And that our online community is worse off for it.

Anyhow, never worry about sounding ungracious around here. If I am going to criticize, I need to be able to take it. Especially if I am going to criticize with such clumsy words. I appreciate your comments a lot.

javabeans said...

Thanks for the link and mention. I found Londonkoreanlinks through your list, and will have to check out a lot of the blogs on their list I haven't checked out yet. Apparently my "blog juice" measures 3.8, but I don't mind not being included on their list because my blog is admittedly something of a niche within a niche.

I agree that the Korean blog scene has shifted, perhaps not ALL for the better, but it's nice nonetheless to see the scope widening. It used to be a trial to find decent English-language blogs posting on Korea-related topics; now the internet's cluttered with so many Korea blogs that the trial is in weeding out which ones to read or not, because surely nobody has enough time to read them ALL, with the number being so high.

Philip / London Korean Links said...

Well, my original article wasn't particularly in-depth (it was written for a newspaper audience of novices), and the "top 20" list was in no way intended as such (though I suppose it was inevitable that it might be taken that way), but I'm glad it's flushed out some interesting comments, including recommendations for blogs I haven't hitherto paid enough attention to.