When you hear the word 'book', what shape comes to your mind? Most likely a rectangular, straight, hard form where stories are told page by page. What about books that have transparent OHP film as pages instead of paper? And books you need to shine a light on to see the title? This writer is the author of those books. She is an author who attempts the creation of books that have diverse form, breaking away from conventional formats. This was our meeting with author Kim Yun-jeong, who also runs her independent publishing brand called YUN Edition, named after herself.
Please introduce yourself to our <K-Book Trends> readers.
I am children's book author Kim Yun-jeong, who used to write and illustrate books but now publishes them too.
After having my child and spending much time with them, I naturally came to spend time with picture books. At first, the picture books merely served as reading material for my child, but one day I realized they had been comforting me and had taken place inside my heart. I was touched and delighted by many of these books and little by little, I began to think I would like to create picture books as well. After, I created dummy books, entered competitions and became a children's book author.
<Message of Hands (YUN Edition)> and <With You (Kookmin Books)>
As you just said, you used to write and illustrate books, but now you're creating them. What compelled you to launch YUN Edition?
From 2013, I began creating dummy books and participated in the children's book fair at Bologna, Italy every year. In the first year, I participated as an individual and the next, I created a booth with my friends. But starting in 2016, only publishers were allowed to participate in the Korean pavilion at the book fair. Having a booth outside the Korean pavilion was too expensive, so that year I registered for my own publishing business.* Until then, I'd been using 'Yun' to identify myself at the Bologna children's book fair, so I decided on YUN Edition for the business' name. Even when I was registering for the publishing business, I never dreamed I would actually publish books under the name. From an author's point of view, publishing books seemed like a different world altogether, and I wasn't able to find the courage immediately.
* In South Korea, anyone can register for a publishing business even if they don't have published books due to local regulations.
Your publication business began because you needed to participate in the children's book fair at Bologna. You've been taking part in that particular book fair every year - is there a special reason you do so?
The first book I made was a dummy book called <Yummy Yummy!>. I never thought manufacturing this book would be difficult. When I created the dummy book, the reaction I had from children was positive, and I simply thought if I took the book to a publisher, they would easily be able to produce it for me. But from 2010, 13 publishers declined to publish the book for two years. After that, I wondered if my book was the problem and grew curious as to how publishers in other countries would react to the book. Eventually, I decided I would take my book to the Bologna children's book fair, which I did in 2013. I've now been going for 7 straight years (laughs).
<Long Long Foldout Book (YUN Edition)>, the final product from Kim's dummy book <Yummy Yummy!>
<Long long foldout book> YouTube video
Back then, since it was my first time to attend the book fair, the pressure from the cost was quite high. I felt it was too high of a cost to pay to take just one dummy book to the fair, so I made three more. Once I got there, I saw there were so many books. There were other books difficult to produce just like mine, in addition to bizarre picture books, picture books that seemed difficult for children to understand - just so many. I realized then if I had seven or eight books rather than just one book that was hard to physically manufacture, I stood a chance at publishing. So each year, I added one more dummy book to my arsenal, and in 2015 when I took <Message of Hands> to the book fair as a dummy book, I had at least seven books that had yet to be published (laughs).
There is no special strategy I have when it comes to ideas.
I just look at everything in my everyday life from a 'book' point of view.
You've been creating witty books, jumping beyond limits that paper books present. Where do you get your ideas?
The books I made that were difficult to publish weren't created with the thought in mind they would be published as picture books. At the time I was also working as a book art author, and in the process of thinking of pieces that were closer to book art, I asked myself, "Couldn't these be published, even in a small number?" And the books that were eventually created from these ideas include works you are familiar with, like <Message of Hands> and <With You>.
There is no special strategy I have when it comes to ideas. I just look at everything in my everyday life from a 'book' point of view. I take memos every chance I get, look at them and choose what can be expanded into products and create my dummy books from there.
Book art pieces <Egg Carton Picture Book (Created in 2009)> and <Subway Line 1 (Created in 2010)>
Even in the case of <Message of Hands>, I didn't have a special occasion from which I chanced upon the idea. One day, my eyes happened to fall on my mother's rough and tough hands, and this broke my heart. From then on I wanted to create a book that portrayed what I saw that day. And then some time after on a winter day, I was looking out a window. The window that blocked the cold wind and brought in only the sunlight reminded me of my mother. I used transparent film to portray that window and led my book with hands.
The hands printed on plastic film are the main points of this book
From next year, my <Long Long Foldout Book> is scheduled to be published in Mexico,
while <Message of Hands> and <With You> will be published in China.
We have heard the response towards your books has been positive. Have any of your books been exported?
Only the response has been positive, I think. One thing I've heard most often ever since my first year at the book fair is whether my dummy books are for sale. Editors tell me their publishers will probably be unable to mass produce my books, but ask me whether they can personally buy my dummy books. Teachers or activists also have introduced me to publishers, but my books would cost a lot to publish, so we are all wrapping our heads around this issue.
From next year, my <Long Long Foldout Book> is scheduled to be published in Mexico, while <Message of Hands> and <With You> will be published in China.
<Rolling Lump of Poo (Kookmin Books)> and <Ice Cream Poo (Sallim Children)>, are all joyful and funny books in conventional picture book format. Do you have plans to release these kinds of books in the future as well?
These two books weren't hard to publish at all, so I saw their release fairly quickly. I want to keep writing fun and exciting books. I think 'being fun' is the most important when writing children's books, because you are reading them with children. I think it'd be very sad if my books were ignored by children. Much time and thought goes into the stories or format of the books because even the most serious of stories need to be wrapped in a 'fun' way.
<Rolling Lump of Poo>, <Ice Cream Poo>
English version of <Rolling Lump of Poo> created by the National Library for Children and Young Adults for multi-cultural readers
Could you tell us if you have a special philosophy or faith you wish to portray in your books? We are also curious about your future plans.
Once children become interested in a certain picture book, they read it dozens of times. This also means there is a grown-up who will end up reading that book to them dozens of times (laughs). So I think an author's eye needs to be able to see the future of children and an author's fingertips also need to be able to touch the hearts of those adults.
First of all, I'd like to publish my dummy books, even if it takes a bit of time. My third book involving film called <The Red> is set to be published by YUN Edition next year in addition to works by my significant other and books I am working on with them.
<In Light (YUN Edition)>, a book jointly produced by Kim's significant other, Choi Deok-kyu
Arranged by Jeon Hye-young