I attended another 10 Magazine speech organized by Barry Welsh. Here are my unofficial grades for the speakers I have heard so far:
1) Shin Dong Hyuk (A+): The audience was captivated. A few ladies were in tears as he discussed his escape from North Korea, his adjustment to living in South Korea, his difficulty at enjoying life. I first met Shin shortly before the best-selling book (Escape from Camp 14) in America about him was published, and was a bit surprised when he recognized me at an event and struck up a conversation with me even though he is so shy. Even though I was already familiar with his story, it was still great to hear it first hand in an informal setting. I threw a curveball at him, mentioning that that some people have doubted the veracity of his story. He took it in stride. After escaping from a prison camp in North Korea, I guess that there aren't many things that could rattle him.
2) Michael Breen (A): An outstanding mix of humor, experience and common sense about Korea. He could have had an A+, but Shin Dong Hyuk’s presentation was special, and these grades are comparative. The only downside is there were too many questions from the audience about North and South Korean relations, but since Breen didn’t give a speech, it is understandable that the audience members took the discussion in the direction they wanted. I've already written about how impressed I was by Breen's presentation so I won't repeat that. I asked a few questions, including about Samsung's lawsuit against him. His answer was funny, informative and profound, and that's all that I'll say about Samsung as long as I live in Korea.
Andrew Salmon (B+): His presentation on the Korean War was tremendous. I rarely read about wars, fighting, military strategy, so it was like a crash course about the Korean War. His presentation got me to thinking about several issues I have heard about because he provided great context and some interesting historical points. The one thing missing is a broader point about what he learned, about how to apply his historical knowledge to today's discussions. It would have been better to have an expert or two in the audience to ask him a few questions during his presentation or Q&A to push him. Unfortunately, Salmon committed the crime of speaking twice as long as he had promised. He said he would speak for 45 minutes, instead, he probably spoke for at least 95 minutes.
James Turnbull (B): His presentation was interesting cultural and social analysis about Korea, pulling together a lot of gossip, sexy photos and titillating stories into a well-organized presentation. I’m still not sure what it all adds up to—it is the kind of analysis more appropriate for late-night bull sessions by college students majoring in psychology/sociology/history with a minor in gender studies. Plus, he even beat Salmon, speaking for almost two full hours when he said it might take an hour or hour and 20 minutes. Based on his presentation today, my back of the room suggestions: 1) Don’t try to say everything. His presentation was the type that could have had great interaction with the audience, rather than a one-way presentation, and I suspect that it would have been livelier because there were a few folks in the audience who are also knowledgeable about Korea. I’m not that knowledgeable about Korea but even I had many questions and disagreements. 2) Be more accurate about how long he will speak. To be clear, I don’t mind long speeches and presentations, the speaker can develop his or her main points and give points to attack. I was sharpening my knives expecting questions after an hour, but he kept on going. Thankfully, Barry was able to reserve the room for an additional hour, otherwise there would have been no time for questions.
Daniel Tudor (C)—Many good things about his presentation, but he struck me as being a good young reporter who wrote a book about Korea prematurely. It seems that Korea must be experienced long term, not reported on. Probably after another decade of seasoning, he could come close to what Breen did and does. Korea is not the kind of place that you are ready to write a book about after being here for a few years, perhaps even a decade is not enough time and perspective. Someone who has been following Korea since the 1980s, witnessing the military dictatorships, the transition to democracy, the IMF crisis, the deaths of the 2 previous dictators of North Korea, 2002 World Cup, 2008 meat protests, etc., is probably the rare person to write a really good book about Korea. Of course, there are some parts that can be reported on well, such as Salmon's on the Korean War, but not about Korean culture.
Kim Young-Ha (INC)--I can't fairly grade his speech because I hated his book I have the right to destroy myself. It would have been more accurate to title it I have the right to help Korean women destroy themselves. It was a book about a psychopath seeking out Korean women on the verge of suicide, and coaxing them to go through with it. His success is an indicator that Korean literature was really lousy in the mid-1990s, that anyone Korean saying anything different or controversial attracted attention. So thank Korea's censors for his success. Of course, he may have written some non-garbage since then, but that one was particular edition was enough for me.
I stayed at the event through the first hour--he seemed personable, he may even be a good speaker and have some funny points. But it was like listening to a psychopath sound reasonable. So instead of giving him the "F" he deserves for his lousy book, I will just mark him incomplete because his actual discussion may have been okay.