Category Archives: Books

Article: “Korean Classics as the Next Wave”

Emanuel argues in this article for Korea Literature Translation Institute that the Korean classics, and the Korean classical tradition should be the next focus for the Korean Wave.

Emanuel’s article in September 2012 issue of Korea Literature Translation Institute. “Korean Classics as the Next Wave”

National Library of Korea recommends my book for summer reading list

The National Library of Korea selected my book “Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed” (인생은 속도아니라 방향이다) for its list of 100 books to read this summer vacation.

For the full list and background see

『휴가철에 읽기 좋은 책 100선』


Korea Society of East Asian Comparative Literature awards prize to Emanuel (Korean)

December 15, 2011

I had the great honor of receiving the Seokheon Scholarly Prize offered by the Korea Society of East Asian Comparative Literature. The prize was awarded in recognition of my recent study of Chinese novels in Japan: The Observable Mundane: Vernacular Chinese and the Emergence of a Literary Discourse on Popular Narrative in Edo Japan (Seoul National University Press, 2011). The Seokheon Scholarly Prize is awarded for the best study of comparative Asian literature published in Korea. The prize was established four years ago in honor of Professor Jung Kyubok (정규복 교수) of Korea University’s Department of Korean Literature. When I studied in Korea back in 1995, I attended many seminars held by the Korea Society of East Asian Comparative Read more of this post

Book Signing and Lecture for “Life is a Matter of Direction, Not Speed”

We will have a short lecture and book signing aimed at young people for Emanuel’s book “Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed”

I do hope everyone can come.

Book Signing and Lecture


Date:      Friday, October 21, 2011-09-28

일시 : 2011. 10. 21. (금)

Time:       2-5 PM

오후 2시~5시

Location:      The   Leader’s Club


Yangcheon-gu Minhoegwan (Citizen’s Hall)

장소 : 양천구민회관 지하 1층 리더스클럽 (양천구청역 2호선)

Subway Line #2

Yangcheon-gu District Office

 (양천구청역 2호선

Hyungak Sunim’s introduction to my book (현각수님)

Hyungak Sunim is an American who has established himself in Korea as a Buddhist monk and thoughtful commentator on spiritual issues. It so happens that the two of us were classmates at Yale College and have communicated on various matters over the years. Hyungak Sunim lived many years in Korea and is well-known for his book about his experiences in the practice of Buddhism.

He was kind enough to write this preface for my recent book  “A Robinson Crusoe in Korea: Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed.”

Introduction to “A Robinson Crusoe in Korea: Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed”

By Hyon Gak Sunim

Writing in the mid-19th century, the Father of American Philosophy,

Ralph Waldo Emerson, made strong and radical attempts to unshackle

his American contemporaries from the chains of their strict,

conservative, book-only views of education. Though he himself was a

child of the ancient Greek and Roman classics, graduated from

Harvard College with a classical education, as a mature philosopher Read more of this post

Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed

Emanuel's book about life in Korea and the Future of Education

My new book, titled “Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed” or in Korean “인생은 속도가 아니라 방향이다,” addresses the challenges for young people in Korea and around the world in the context of larger cultural forces and the evolution of education. In the book I also take time to describe my experiences in Korea and explain why I have settled down in this country.  It came out on July 20, 2011, and is published by Nomad Books.  Read on for a Korean-language excerpt.
Read more of this post

“The Observable Mundane,” study of Chinese vernacular literature in Japan (SNU Press)

Seoul National University Press has finally published my book, The Observable Mundane: Vernacular Chinese and the Emergence of a Literary Discourse on Popular Narrative in Edo Japan.  It is a scholarly study of the impact of Chinese vernacular narratives on the conception of literature among Japanese writers and critics in the Edo period (17th-19th centuries). Emanuel argues that Chinese vernacular literature, because it has some of the great authority of the Chinese tradition, but employed common parole, inspired a new evaluation of the potential of the vernacular that adumbrated the rise of the modern novel. The Observable Mundane is the first book on Japanese literature published by Seoul National University Press.

Evolution of East Asian Enterprise from Hangyoreh Economic Research Institute

Hangyoreh Economic Research Institute (HERI) released this volume “Evolution of East Asian Enterprise” based on the talks given at the ASIA Future Forum held in December of 2010. I was a member of the panel on NGOs in Asia and their emerging role. The conference brought together a wide range of individuals from China, Japan and Korea concerned with corporate social responsibility and the role of NGOs in building civil society.


South Korean Educators

I am not sure what to make of it, but today a friend informed me that a new book is listed on that includes me as its subject.


The title of the book is:


“South Korean Educators:   Ahn Cheol-Soo, Kim Jong-Il, Chang Young Hee, Kim Ho Jik, Emanuel Pastreich, Tai-Young Kim”

It would be an honor to be included alongside Ahn Cheol-Soo of KAIST (soon to be at SNU AICT). I do not know Kim Jong-il. I assume it is a different person as the Kim Jong Il I am most familiar with is neither South Korean nor an educator.





“The Novels of Bak Jiweon Translation of Overlooked Worlds”

The Novels of Bak Jiweon

Translation of Overlooked Worlds

Seoul National University Press

February, 2011

Bak Jiweon’s novels are populated with the full range of individuals who had been entirely excluded from the literary lens of Joseon (1392-1910) Bak’s writings are an exploration of the full range of human experience in society. But rather than attribute insights on moral issues to Confucian sages—as did his peers, Bak places his words in the mouths of beggars, con men, day laborers and widows. Those who had no voice in Joseon society are given a chance to articulate their perspectives in the language of the scholar: literary Chinese. But these novels are not simplistic tales of empowerment either. They are permeated by irony and ambiguity. The low-mimetic protagonists make Korean high society appear ridiculous, but they themselves do not escape ironic treatment. The importance of moral action may be the explicit message of many of the novels, but the tales are rife with anecdotes of uncertainty and even futility.

Bak was swimming against the tide in a profoundly conservative and increasingly inflexible social establishment when he wrote these novels in the late eighteenth century. The Confucian gentry had lost sight of larger social responsibility, being more interested in petty disputes over land and status. Bak demands an erudite and patient reader. Tales that appear to be simple parables reveal on a second or third reading meticulous attention to structure and carefully selected archaic expressions. Bak employs Chinese characters in rare senses throughout the book. His crabbed, dense writing has much in common with the literary archaism that swept China during the Qianlong period in China.

Bak lived a life of intense, but often solitary, intellectual engagement. He was known best as a fiercely independent autodidact who read widely in philosophy, history, astronomy, geography, military affairs, agriculture and economics, but kept a distance from established institutions. Bak became a heroic figure for later scholars because he so vividly limned the inadequacies of Korean society, without blinking.