South Korea's publishing industry has been making efforts to consistently discover new writers, fresh writing and excellent works of literature through literary awards and literary contests. Here is a look into the written work that received literary awards and/or were submitted to literary competitions in 2019.
Gateway to bigger success for new authors: new author awards
The writers go on to have active careers after receiving the award and entering the field.
Every January, South Korea's biggest newspapers hold literary competitions. These spring competitions are generally acknowledged as gateways or springboards for new authors to bigger success. This type of literary competition held early in the year was made widely known by the Dong-A Ilbo in 1925, and this year, 25 media companies nationwide held such competitions for writers. These contests are meant for new writers and authors who already have established careers in the industry can be barred from entering them. Awards are given to works including short novels, poems, commentaries, fairy tales, etc. In today's climate, South Korean writers need not be awarded in these competitions in order to enter the industry, but in South Korea, it is considered to be a great honor to receive one of the spring literary awards because, in addition to the plaque and prize money, the winning literary work is published in the award host newspapers.
<Novel Collection of Spring Literary Award Winners (2019) (Korea Association of Authors)>, <Poetry Collection of Spring Literary Award Winners (2019) (Munhak Segyesa)>, <Play Collection of Spring Literary Award Winners (2019) (Worin)>
In addition to newspapers, key literary magazines like <Munhakdongne>, <Literature and Society>, <The Quarterly Changbi> and <Hyundae Munhak> also hold contests for best new authors. These magazines look for the best novels, poems and commentaries and the award-winning pieces are published in the respective magazines. The authors' work is assessed based on the literary magazines' individual characteristics, and the writers go on to have active careers after receiving the award and entering the field. Author Park Sang-young, writer of <Love Rules of Big Cities (Changbi)>, received a new author award from <Munhakdongne> and launched his career. Yang Seon-hyung, who received a new author award from (Literature and Society>, published his first novel <Sentimental Novel (Moonji Publishing)> last year.
<Love Rules of Big Cities>, <Sentimental Novel>
Diverse Literary Awards Recognized by South Korean readers
Prominent literature publishers of South Korea also hold meaningful contests. These contests are for all authors, whether they be new or experienced. These contests are at times, viewed as a means for seasoned authors to test their abilities. The Hyundae Munhak Award, Hankyoreh Literary Award and Today's Author Award are the most well-recognized of these prizes. Authors who receive these awards are later published by these businesses, taking them one step closer to readers.
Established in 1955 to boost authors' motivation to write and promote the quality of literature in South Korea, publisher Hyundae Munhak's literary award now boasts a long history. Major recipients of this prestigious award include authors beloved by Korean readers like Kim Young-ha, Yi Mun-yol and Shin Kyung-sook. In 2019, Park Min-jung won the award for <Morg Diorama>.
Hankyoreh Publishing has been handing out its literary award since 1996 for the future and development of South Korean literature. Novels like Park Min-kyu's <Sammi Superstars' Last Fan Club>, Chang Kang-myung's <Bleach> and Choi Ji-wol's <Times of Loss> have been given this award, and most recently, Park Seo-ryun's <Chegongnyeo Gangjuryong> was awarded this prize.
Today's Author Award from Minumsa was first created in 1977, and from 2015, the judges decided to give the award to a published work of literature, rather than receive newly written manuscripts that had yet to be published. Since then, the judges have been selecting the best literary work from each year. In 2016, Chang Kang-myung's <Comment Troops (Eunhaengnamu)> won the prize while in 2017, Cho Nam-joo's <Ji-young Kim, Born in '82 (Minumsa)> was given the honor. In 2018, Bae Soo-ah's <The Snake and Water (Munhakdongne)> received the award.
<Morg Diorama (Novel awarded the 64th Hyundae Munhak Award in 2019)>, <Chegongnyeo Gangjuryong>, <The Snake and Water>
Many prestigious literary awards in South Korea are named after writers who played significant roles in shaping the country's contemporary literature. Prizes like the Shin Dong-yup Literary Award, Kim Su-young Literary Award, So-wol Poetry Literary Award, Yi Sang Literary Award and the Kim Dal-jin Literary Award were all created in recognition of each author's spirit and their achievements. These awards have received positive praise from readers and each year, and readers keep close tabs on them for the next prizewinners.
Of these, the Shin Dong-yup Literary Award was established in 1982 in light of the literary spirit that Shin, a poet, had and to support talented writers. Only Korean literary work published within the past two years by an author with less than 10 years of professional experience is allowed to enter the competition and in 2019, novelist Kim Se-hee's <The Still Days (Minumsa)> won the top prize.
The Kim Su-young Literary Award was created by Minumsa in 1981 out of respect for Korean contemporary poet Kim Su-young, and when it was first created, the prize was given only to works of poetry that had been published. However, from 2006, the gates to the award were opened to poets yet to be published, allowing young writers a chance to receive the prize. Famous Korean poets like Hwang Ji-woo, Na Hee-duk have been given this award, and in 2018, Lee So-ho's <Cat Calling> received the honor. This year's award recipient has yet to be announced, and many readers are waiting for the outcome in anticipation.
Kim So-wol was a writer of sentimental poems, beloved by the Korean public for years, and the So-wol Poetry Literary Award was created to celebrate the history of his work. The award was established in 1987 and given to well-known poets like Jeong Ho-seung, Kim Yong-taek and Ahn Do-hyun. In 2019, Na Tae-ju's <My Heart Slightly Leans (RH Korea)> was given the award.
<The Still Days>, <Cat Calling>, <My Heart Slightly Leans>
There are many diverse literary awards and unique competitions in South Korea.
Aside from these, there are now increasingly more competitions for unique literary genres that have been seeing more reader attention in South Korea. Web platforms for creative writing like Naver and Munpia hold competitions for web novels and webtoons. In the 5th competition hosted by Munpia this year, Highend's <The Genius' Game Broadcast> won the top prize and is currently being published as a series on the platform. Naver hosted a contest this year for the best webtoon and web novel and the prize money for each genre ran as high as 100 million won. The works that receive the awards will be given the opportunity to publish their work officially on Naver. Kakao Page, joining hands with publisher Changbi, hosted a competition for the best adult literature this year. Awarded works were given the chance to upload their work for paying customers on Kakao Page and later be formally published.
There are many diverse literary awards and unique competitions in South Korea. The quality and popularity of awarded works are justified by the prizes, meaning the awards could be good criteria for someone looking for Korean authors or books to publish abroad. Korean writers who have seen immense success outside South Korea like Han Kang, Kim Ae-ran and Kim Yeon-soo have all been recipients of prizes at home, like the Yi Sang Literary Award and Hwang Sun-won Literary Award. Every year, talented authors offer excellent pieces of work to capture the minds of readers. It would be a good idea to take a look at who receives the judges' attention in the coming year.
Written by Choi Ha-Yeong