This September in the city of Gothenburg, the second biggest city in Sweden, the words 'book' and 'Korea' caught the attention of many passersby from the airport to the central parts of the city like big shopping malls. This was because South Korea was the guest of honor at the Gothenburg Book Fair from Sept. 26 to 29. Operating Korean Pavilions at overseas international book fairs is becoming an increasingly important way to spread the word on South Korea's books, publishing industry, authors and even culture and also to create a foundation for exchanges. As such, the interest and participation rates of South Korean publishing industry professionals are growing each year.
The Korean Publishers Association (KPA) opened several Korean Pavilions at book fairs this year, starting with the Taipei International Book Exhibition in February before going onto the Bologna Children's Book Fair in March. In August there was the Beijing International Book Fair, followed by the Moscow International Book Fair in September and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. At the Gothenburg Book Fair, South Korea was the guest of honor to mark 30 years of diplomatic ties with Sweden and there, at the Korean Pavilion, many Korean books and authors were introduced to visitors. For December, the KPA is planning a China book fair for business purposes to boost copyright contract deals between the two countries. This year so far has seen more than 140 Korean publishers introduce their books to non-Korean publishers and readers through the Korean pavilions and seek ways to export books.
An advertisement for the Gothenburg Book Fair
Guest of honor booth: Establishing a platform for book, author exports through the enhancement of Korean culture's image
Each international book fair selects and invites one country each year to be the guest of honor there, and the honor carries special meaning. The guest of honor country usually sets the theme for that year's book fair and receives the most attention from international publishers and visitors. Also, it is an easy way to boost understanding about a country's authors and publishing industry in the process of negotiating programs over a long period with the book fair administrators, who have wide networks in the host country's publishing industry. It is a great opportunity to not only introduce individual books and authors but also shore up interest in Korean publishing and culture and strengthen the foundation upon which exchanges are made. This is why publishing-related institutions in South Korea including KPA make particularly bigger efforts when South Korea is selected as the guest of honor country for a book fair. They take care in selecting authors and books and planning programs. Other programs for professionals like seminars are provided as well, with Korean authors, publishing industry professionals and other experts in the industry. Thus, international publishing professionals can glean not only a deep understanding of the culture surrounding Korean books but very useful and professional information at the same time.
As aforementioned, the KPA managed the Korean Pavilion at the Gothenburg Book Fair with the help and cooperation of the Writers Association of Korea, which was also a co-organizer. Support was also provided by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea, Naver supporters and the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The Gothenburg Book Fair was first started by librarians in 1985, and currently it is the biggest of its kind in Scandinavian countries. In Europe, it is the second-largest international book fair after the book fair in Frankfurt. Due to its prominence, it is an event that has attracted attention from Korean publishers who are interested in entering the northern European market.
At this year's Korean pavilion in Sweden, 77 books and 54 picture books were placed on display under the theme, 'Human & Humanity'. In addition to the books, a special exhibition on the theme was also available, involving video and sound, which boosted interest among visitors. More than anything else, authors' book readings, seminars, book talk events, and autographing events saw the best feedback as the authors were able to personally communicate with visitors and publishing professionals. At the book fair were Korean authors like Kim Keum-hee, Kim Soom, Kim Un-su, Kim Haeng-sook, Sin Yong-mok, Lee Myung-ae, Suzy Lee, Cho Hae-jin, Jin Eun-young, Han Kang and Hyun Ki-young. The main seminar at the book fair, which could easily be called the 'flower' of the book fair, was a meaningful event as participants could discuss a diverse range of issues that currently affect Korean society. Topics discussed there were 'gender and labor issues', 'peace on the Korean peninsula', 'refugees and humanism', 'education for everyone' and 'literature in the age of technology'. The book fair was also an opportunity to realize how popular writer Han Kang is. Three of her books, <Human Acts (Changbi)>, <The Vegetarian (Changbi)> and <The White Book (Munhakdongne)> have already been published in Swedish by Natur&Kultur. All the seminars that Han Kang participated in had long queues, and many visitors to the Korean Pavilion asked for her books.
A look at the Korean pavilion at the Gothenburg Book Fair
(Left) A seminar with Korean authors, (Right) a meet and greet event with Korean poet Sin Yong-mok
On the back of the success seen at the 2019 Gothenburg Book Fair, the KPA will also run guest of honor booths at the Taipei International Book Exhibition in February 2020 and at the Moscow International Book Fair in September. If there are any non-Korean publishing industry professionals in those countries around that time, they are recommended to stop by and check out Korean authors and books there.
Korean Pavilion at overseas book fairs: Where Korean publishers, aiming for regional and genre connections, can be met
At the Korean Pavilions available at major international book fairs, Korean publishers who are excited over possibly entering international markets, as well as books of high quality selected with the interest of international readers in mind can all be found.
Children's books, picture books: The Bologna Children's Book Fair
South Korea's children's books, educational books and picture books are all publications that usually garner much interest outside South Korea. Reflecting this high interest and demand from publishers inside and outside South Korea, Korean book fair organizers tried to offer several chances for book fair visitors to focus solely on these books in 2019. Special exhibitions for picture books were on display at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Moscow International Book Fair, the Gothenburg Book Fair and Frankfurt Book Fair to great acclaim.
(Left) A scene from the Bologna Children's Book Fair (Right) Consultation event in Bologna
The Bologna Children's Book Fair that takes place in Italy is the biggest and most prominent children's book fair in the world. Every April, some 1,400 participating companies from 77 countries gather in Bologna and carry out negotiations on promotions, exchanges and copyright exports. The book fair is also famous for the Bologna Ragazzi Awards, also dubbed the Nobel prizes for children's books, which are handed out at the book fair. From April 1 to 4 at this year's Bologna Children's Book Fair, KPA opened a Korean Pavilion and supported promotion efforts for Korean publishers and books. Around 40 Korean publishers, including Kyowon Co. Ltd, BookGoodCome, SND Corporation and BIR Publishing displayed their books inside the booth and directly engaged with visitors. Aside these, ten publishers sent their books to the fair to be displayed. The publishers that participated in the book fair created a catalog in English with the information of their representative books and their businesses for distribution at the book fair. Also, a separate space for copyright deal discussions was installed inside the Korean Pavilion to provide publishers with networking and exchange opportunities. The Korean picture books and authors who were shortlisted for the Ragazzi awards or received them are worth taking notice of. The awards are divided into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, new horizon, opera prima (for newly debuted authors) and toddler (books for children 6 years or younger). In 2019, illustrator Yoon Mi-sook received a special mention for <The Moon Over the Apple Orchard (Changbi)> in the fiction category. Another illustrator, Chae Seung-yeon, also received a special mention in the opera prima category for <A Shadow (Bandal)>. The KPA plans to open another Korean Pavilion at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2020 for international publishing professionals who have an interest in Korean picture books and books for children.
Business opportunities in China: Taipei International Book Exhibition, Beijing International Book Fair, Biz Matching China Book Fair
Among Korean publishers, those who seek a way into Chinese book markets frequently participate in the Taipei International Book Exhibition, Beijing International Book Fair and other business-oriented events. If you are a Chinese publishing professional, these events are good opportunities to meet with Korean publishers and authors and gather useful information on their books.
Images of the 2018 Biz Matching China Book Fair and publishers pitching their businesses
The 'Biz Matching China Book Fair' is slightly different from the Korean Pavilions previously seen at other international book fairs. A small number of participants are selected from South Korea and China to take part in the event in China. There, they are given one-on-one matching services, as well as consultation services and sessions to pitch their businesses to one another. It has served as an effective platform where publishers can carry out business in a short amount of time. Last year, the Biz Matching China Book Fair took place in Beijing through the cooperation of a Chinese publishing group. This year, it will be held in Chengdu in Sichuan Province from Dec. 2 to 3. A copyright association in Chengdu and an association of authors in Chengdu are lending their help for the event while 13 South Korean publishers like DNC Media, Pakyoungsa, Sapyoung Book and Sanzini are all waiting to be matched with Chinese publishers. This event will also be held next year. Aside from this, the KPA is scheduled to participate in the Taipei International Book Exhibition in February 2020 as guest of honor and will open a Korean Pavilion at the Beijing International Book Fair in August.
Seoul International Book Fair: Where publishing markets of South Korea and Asia can be observed in one location
A view of the Seoul International Book Fair and an international conference during the event
Lastly, the best way to understand the publishing market in South Korea and Asia is to visit the Seoul International Book Fair that takes place every June in Seoul. Every year, over 150,000 visitors flock to the event, and in 2019, more than 420 publishers participated from over 40 countries globally. It was the perfect place for exchanges, with more than 1,110 copyright consultations occurring during the book fair. In 2019, the KPA carried out copyright export exchange projects, liaised with the Seoul International Book Fair, operated a fellowship program to invite international publishing professionals and also hosted the Voltaire Award. At the Seoul International Book Fair this year, the guest of honor country was Hungary with a focus on Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Like these programs and events, the KPA invited many professionals from the international publishing industry, tried to create more exchange opportunities with their Korean counterparts and saw much success. The official notices for participants for the 2020 Seoul International Book Fair and fellowship program will be uploaded on the official website late October and early November.
* Seoul International Book Fair: www.sibf.or.kr
<South Korea's participation plans for key book fairs in 2020>
Guest of honor country
Taipei International Book Exhibition 2020. 2. 4 ~ 2. 9, www.tibe.org.tw
Moscow International Book Fair 2020. 9. 2 ~ 9. 6, http://mibf.info/
Bologna Children's Book Fair 2020. 3. 30 ~ 4. 2, www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it
Beijing International Book Fair 2020. 8. 26 ~ 8. 30, www.bibf.net
Frankfurt Book Fair 2020. 10. 14 ~ 10. 18, www.buchmesse.de
China Biz Matching (TBD)
Seoul International Book Fair
2020. 6. 24 ~ 6. 28, COEX(SEOUL), www.sibf.or.kr
* Inquiries: Korean Publishers Association, www.kpa21.or.kr
Written by Joo Jaeeun (Department of International Affairs/Korean Publishers Association)