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TOEFL and GRE Reading Practice Part 3: Welcome To Korea

This is my latest post featuring reading material that can help you build vocabulary for both the TOEFL and the GRE—a great resource for those of you studying for the TOEFL and GRE at the same time.

In these posts, I present chapters of a short adventure novel I’m writing. Each chapter is meant to imitate the writing style of popular American novelists such as Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum. So reading this can also help prepare you for reading real American intrigue and action novels, which are great reading practice too!

In the reading passage, I’ve put the key vocabulary words in bold, and I’ve also taken care to make sure that there are a lot of context clues to help you understand unfamiliar words. Some of the words in bold were also covered in the last chapter I posted, but it’s good to review In addition, I have an activity to really help you learn the vocabulary in the passage.

So read and enjoy. Chapter 4 is coming soon….


Reading activity instructions:
Step 1:

Look at the words below. Study any unfamiliar words on These words are a mix of TOEFL and GRE level words. Some of the words could probably be found on either exam:

abandon, agony, allowance, animosity, bunker, ceasefire, citizen, class, consequence, decade, device, disparity, disport, economy, enthusiastically, expanded, fiscal, floorboard, fundamental, hatch, hostile, hut, impressively, instances, instinct, institution, misnomer, nature, noetic, occupy, old fashioned, phonograph, privileged, prosperity, quagmire, region, renewed, response, ruling, seismograph, stark, stipend, technically, trapdoor, village, vinyl

Step 2:

Read the following passage, which uses all of the words in the list above. This passage is at a difficulty level that is somewhat TOEFL-like, but also somewhat GRE-like. You can consider the reading level to be halfway between the two exams. Pay special attention to the words in bold. Those words are taken from the vocabulary list above. However, in the passage different forms of the words may be used. Even if you can’t quite remember all of the words meanings you looked up in activity 1, you should be able to guess the meanings of most words from context. If you need to, review the words again on as you do your reading.


Welcome to Korea

As the decades had passed since the ceasefire of the Korean War, the disparity between North and South Korea had grown greatly. The economic disparity had become undeniable in the 1960s and 1970s, when South Korea began to truly recover from the war, and its economy began to grow impressively. The disparity had only expanded after that time, becoming very big indeed in modern times.

Today, South Korea enjoyed great economic prosperity. In stark contrast, North Korea’s present financial situation was painfully unpleasant. Many citizens were starving, although a lucky few received a small emolument from their government, a fixed payment given to citizens with strong connections to the ruling class. Some especially privileged citizens were paid their stipend in cash, but many less important members of this class of North Koreans were given an allowance of food instead of money.

As this disparity in standards of living had grown bigger between the North and South, there had been political consequences. In response to the nations’ fiscal inequality, the North had shown increasing animosity toward South Korea. This animosity turned into full hostility every few years, with North Korea occasionally sinking South Korean ships or firing missiles at South Korean villages near the North-South border. In both these short instances of war and the longer periods of peace, The North’s animosity and hostility extended to America and its citizens.

Measuring the now-fundamental disparity of living standards between Northerners and Southerners on the Korean Peninsula had always been a very noetic practice for Prestwich. He had enjoyed studying the nature of the Korean region and the security risks there. But now he was really in North Korea—an American, leading a team of Americans in a hostile territory. As he looked around at the abandoned—but still dangerous—village, he struggled to stop thinking so deeply and academically about North Korea. He had to abandon his noetic “professor-think” and start to think more instinctively.

He needed to think less and rely on his warrior instincts more. The North Koreans would eventually realize what Prestwich and his men were doing in the village, and then there would be a battle—that was part of the plan. But the battle had to be short. If the hostilities in the village went on for too long, the leaders of both the North and South would become aware that the ceasefire had broken. And this could lead to a long, renewed Korean war.

This would be a military and political quagmire, one that neither the North, the South, or America truly wanted. Really, no one in the world wanted to go through the agony of a second Korean War. Although, Prestwich reflected, a second Korean War was a misnomer. The first Korean War had technically never ended. There was a ceasefire but no treaty. The war then, even with relatively few recent hostilities, was a continuing institution that greatly influenced the politics of the Pacific Rim as a whole.

Prestwich gave the command, and the men all walked into one of the small huts in a neat line. Corporal Hennessy, who had been at the front of the line, smiled and lifted a thick wooden floorboard on the floor of the hut. Underneath the board was a trapdoor with a computerized combination lock. In a move that greatly bothered Prestwich, Hennessy entered the secret combination to the trapdoor without being clearly ordered to do so.

Hennessy and his four fellow soldiers enthusiastically jumped down into the hatch. Prestwich quickly ran down after them. In the room beneath the hatch, one could immediately see a strange pair of items. There was a seismograph that had been placed there by the North Koreans due to rumors that the South had an earthquake making weapon and planned to use it. Near the earthquake-measuring device was an old fashioned phonograph. This second item still had a very old vinyl record of classical music lying on it, ready to play.

To Prestwich’s horror, Hennessy turned on the phonograph, and loud classical music began to play. The rest of the soldiers spread themselves around the underground room, disporting themselves by playing with the various objects left in the bunker, which looked as if it had been occupied very recently.



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