WRITING: 3.5/5
OVERALL: 3.5/5

“Your Nunchi’s biggest source of power? The fact that people talk too much.”

Euny Hong, The Power of Nunchi

Korea is all over popular culture – whether it is books, songs, movies, music, television, art, fashion, or even self-help. But this is surprisingly my first Korean nonfiction read, a book that talks about a concept called Nunchi. In Euny Hong’s The Power of Nunchi, you learn that Nunchi, pronounced as noon-chee, translates into English as eye-measure, and is an important toolkit for survival in Korean society.

But we are still not clear about what it is, are we? Don’t worry, we are going to delve deep into this. To explain, Nunchi is the subtle art and skill, a form of emotional intelligence, of gauging and understanding what others think and feel to build trust, get along well, and connect with them.

Korean parents believe that teaching Nunchi to their children is as important as teaching them to safely cross the road. After all, without this special skill, it becomes fairly difficult to master your people game. It isn’t some recent phenomenon but a social art form that has developed over thousands of years of Korean history.

My review

When it comes to self-help books, this isn’t the best book that I’ve read. This also isn’t one of the great books that I’ve read, but surely there are many things that I’ve learned from the book and some of those I am going to mention below.

When it comes to writing, many unnecessary details could have been done away with. It is also sometimes repetitive. That being said, it is not a bad read, and I gained a lot of perspective and knowledge about Korean society and social behaviour just from reading the book.

Many of the concepts are not new and have been applied in some form or the other in Indian society too, but reading them helps us to assimilate them in our memory better.

The way it is structured

The book is divided into nine different chapters – What is Nunchi? The Korean Superpower, Nunchi Blockers, No Nunchi, or How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Two Eyes Two Ears One Mouth, Trusting Your First Impressions, Nunchi and Relationships, Nunchi at Work, and Nunchi for the Nervous.

My takeaways

In Korea, Nunchi refers to the advantage of the underdog, and there are some concepts that it specifically stresses. These include ‘reading the room’. The book tells you that every room has a ‘boonwigi’ or an atmosphere, and it is important to read that atmosphere or subtle energy of the room whenever one becomes a part of it. This is also helpful when a lot of communication is not spoken but also nonverbal through context, body language, facial expression, posture, and even silence.

I particularly enjoyed reading about some concepts that challenge conventional wisdom. For example, the book illustrates how empathy is selfish, and that understanding should be valued more than empathy. This contrast between Western culture and Korean culture is very evident when we try to understand that while the English version of empathy tells us to ‘put ourselves in someone else’s shoes’, the Korean equivalent for the same is, ‘change location and think’.

The book also offers a critique of the current culture where noise is valued over stillness and quiet, extroversion is considered better than introversion, and individualism is valued more than collectivism.

Information about the Korean culture

In addition to some generally and universally applicable skills and qualities, The Power of Nunchialso gives a lot of information about Korea in general – its history, its society, both cultural and political, its religions, its customs and traditions, its everyday life, and its global dominance in almost every sphere.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like the fact that a large part of the book is repetitive, and I believe the same concepts could have been explained in a much smaller number of pages.

In the end

In the end, the book is a decent one-time read. Euny Hong explains how mastering Nunchi can help you build better relationships, navigate social situations more effectively, and achieve personal and professional success. Through a blend of cultural insights, practical advice, and engaging anecdotes, The Power of Nunchi is a self-help book that shows how anyone can develop and apply this powerful skill in their everyday life.