Dispatches from the Peninsula


Thousands of young adults pass through South Korea each year, teaching English in private schools that together make up one of the country’s largest industries. Korea, long isolated by culture and geography, with a complex language and set of social mores, can be a difficult place to call home. Chris Tharp has begun to make a name for himself as a travel writer, and in this gruff but affectionate memoir, explains why Korea can be both hard to like and hard to leave. He navigates his way through the timeless alleys and neon streets of Korea’s cities, painting a picture of a society that is at once ancient and utterly modern; he serves in the trenches of the English teaching industry, working his way from the private, for-profit academy to the university; he treks through the peninsula’s mountain valleys and rides deep into the country’s rural soul on the back of his motorcycle; he also explores the internal geography of Korea, from nearly being deported over a comedy performance, getting caught in the middle of a street riot, to staring face-to-face with North Korean soldiers along the DMZ. During this six-year journey, Tharp must also deal with the death of his parents, which forces him to ask the question: Is home a place that we’re from, or is it something we take with us wherever we go?


“Tharp is like some punk-rock Huck Finn, as aware and humane as he is blithely non-PC, drama springing up around him with ever choice he makes.”

– Lawrence Krauser, author of Lemon, The Joy of Google, and The Day of Question

“Tough and true is Tharp’s journey in South Korea. I found myself back there, welcoming anew Korea’s wonder, her wrangle, the distinct spirit of the peninsula and her people. All along the way, Tharp is an observant and steady companion.”

– Cullen Thomas, author of Brother Cell One

“Chris’s descriptions of life as an ex-pat in Korea show us a part of the world Americans know little about. His writing is a mix of the sensitive and the whimsical, with a strong human touch, and I smiled as I read his stories, wondering what my own life would have been like had I followed in his path and ventured off to Korea.”

– Mike Luongo, author of The Voyeur and Gay Travels in the Muslim World

“Chris calls it as it is, no bullshit…eminently readable…”

– Chris Backe, author of the popular blog Chris in South Korea

“…the narrative is vivid and inspiring…I felt literally transported to a fantastic, new country…”

– Dana Burgess, Let’s Book It

“Tharp embraces all of his own yammering contradictory selves with breezy self-deprecation and serious reflection in just the right balance. In doing so, he makes Dispatches from the Peninsula a thoroughly engaging, entertaining and illuminating addition to the travel writing canon.”

Busan Haps

“If you’re considering teaching English abroad, or if you’re just interested in what life is like for a foreigner in Korea, read this book.”

– Clifford Garstang, Perpetual Folly

“Tharp’s 290 pages are a sort of carpet over the emptiness, providing enough history and cultural anecdotes to allow for a more pleasant stroll through Korea.”

10 Magazine



4 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Peninsula

  1. A friend gave me a copy to read for Xmas.
    But once upon a time I burnt my ability to read out of my head a little over a decade ago. I haven’t started it yet…

  2. Seems like a good read, but im probably not gonna get the privilege to read it, mainly because not a single one of the bookstores here is gonna carry such a gem for me to find.

    Anyways good blog, great insight and easy to read writing. Anyways ive read dave barry’s book about japan and it said that he had friends living in japan for several years already,and even though they learned the language, customs and everything there is still some kind of barrier between them and their japanese friends etc.

    And seeing as though you include stereotypical and racist comments in the many good articles you write , id like to throw in one of my own at you.

    “Keep writing more good stuff you White man with a fetish for asians, trying to be woody allen? go motherfuck yourself”

    Anyways, Good Blog , great criticisms, UNAPOLOGETIC AS FUCK! awesome.

    1. Hey.

      Thanks for the comment. I even like the insult, as Woody Allen is one of my muthafuckin’ heroes.

      It’s too bad the book is unavailable in most stores. The publisher it puny so distribution has been a huge issue. Hopefully this won’t be the case with my writing down the line.



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