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Korean Publishers


Happywell Publishing

The Ever-lasting Well of Knowledge and Happiness




There’s a publisher that spreads happiness and professional knowledge to readers through books like an endlessly deep well. It’s 17-year-old Happywell Publishing, which never stops expanding into the world. It has never stopped discovering interesting content and appealing writers – it also launched two imprints this year. As such, the world of books that Happywell Publishing is trying to build puts the value of happiness at the forefront, broadening and purifying the hearts of readers. Following is an interview with Happywell Publishing, a publishing house that has been reinforcing its market competitiveness by giving more thought to the values of books in this era where the media for delivering content has diversified. Why don’t we take a deeper look into the happy world of books built by Happywell Publishing?


English logo of Happywell Publishing

English logo of Happywell Publishing



It’s an honor to have you with us on K-Book Trends. Please introduce your company, Happywell Publishing, along with the meaning of the name to our international readers.


Thank you for having us. As you know, wells used to be a valuable source that supplied clean water to neighborhoods in Korea in the past. Along with water’s symbol of life, wells were like mysterious beings and a mirror that reflected one’s true self as they appear in several Korean literary works. Though a bit of an intuitive analogy, the name “Happywell Publishing” reflects both our will to contribute to the intrinsic value of a “happy life” through books, and our hope for our souls to be enlightened.
Happywell Publishing has mainly produced non-fiction and religious books since its establishment in 2006. And since 2023, we have divided business and pure literature into two separate bodies – Drucker Mind and Modern & Books. They have published approximately 100 titles until today.



Happywell Publishing has been seeking appealing authors who are not bound to the traditional style.



We heard that the CEO of Happywell Publishing used to be in a different industry before he established the company in 2006. What was his motivation to set up the publishing house, and how have the past 17 years been for Happywell Publishing?


CEO Choi Dae-Suk was the first generation to lead exports in the Middle East region at Hyundai Motor Group in the 1980s. He then worked at the International Department of Sejong Books before he set up Happywell Publishing. Perhaps because a publishing house was his last workplace, establishing a publisher himself must have been a very natural course.
The books that made Happywell Publishing known to the public were Life After Death by Deepak Chopra and Moses Code by James Twyman. And with the success of When You Need ‘Comma’ of Your Life, a travel essay published 5 years ago, as well as A Camel’s Joints Bend Twice, Happywell Publishing has been focusing on non-fiction and religious books. Of course, we have also been steadily publishing books about photography, art, and business. From this year, we started to publish pure literature and thesis materials through the two imprints – Drucker Mind and Modern & Books, interacting more with our readers.
There are quite a lot of parts that we need to improve on. However, considering the challenging environment surrounding the Korean publishing market, we think the secret to our 17 years of sustainability and survival is that we don’t do things the traditional way, and we discover writers in a slightly different way than traditional publishers. We will continue to work hard to discover compelling writers and content.


English logos of Drucker Mind and Modern & Books, imprints of Happywell Publishing

English logos of Drucker Mind and Modern & Books, imprints of Happywell Publishing

English logos of Drucker Mind and Modern & Books, imprints of Happywell Publishing



Unlike how most of the publishers in Korea are located in Paju Book City and Seoul, Happywell Publishing is in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi-do Province. You even published a book about Gapyeong. What was the reason for setting the base in Gapyeong?


As you said, a majority of publishers in Korea are located in Paju Book City. It’s because the city has many print shops, which is an advantage regarding their proximity to the publishers. However, except for that, Paju Book City is not that appealing to small publishers like us, because it’s far from Seoul. The move to Gapyeong was due to health issues at first, but there, we could use a lot of space, and it was more eco-friendly than Seoul. So, now we have a separate office in Seoul where we do the designs and marketing, and the editing and project planning are being done in the Gapyeong office.
Gapyeong is a tourist town that has recently become known to foreigners for its beautiful nature and environment. However, there are still many parts of the town that are not yet known. So, we have been creating many opportunities to communicate with the local community by publishing Mom, Sister, Let’s Live in Gapyeong, and A Critical Biography of Han Seok-Bong. In particular, Mom, Sister, Let’s Live in Gapyeong, a story about the nature, culture, and historical environment of Gapyeong, was written in collaboration with 41 local figures. The book A Critical Biography of Han Seok-Bong was planned with the intention of making the historical figure Han Seok-Bong, who was a governor of Gapyeong, properly known to the public. Happywell Publishing hopes to continue to develop content by participating in local events, have the company more recognized in the local community, and create mutually beneficial opportunities with local organizations and residents.


Mom, Sister, Let’s Live in Gapyeong

A Critical Biography of Han Seok-Bong

Mom, Sister, Let’s Live in Gapyeong and A Critical Biography of Han Seok-Bong



Happywell Publishing has been publishing books in various fields, including non-fiction, humanities, business, and business management. What is the most important thing when it comes to choosing a manuscript for publication?


In the age of AI, books will still have their charms, but we can’t ignore the influence of various content delivery mediums, such as YouTube and Instagram, and their ripple effect on print media. In the past, books were a valid way to get information for traveling, but nowadays, there are better options, such as YouTube. So, we thought, “If we want to compete with other media and meet consumers through books beyond the field of traveling, we need to have something that is comparable to other media.”
It could be the inherent charm of the writer, or it could be the ability to produce their own content. We thought it was the power of the writer’s own character and soul. So, when we select a writer, we look at what kind of charm his or her character has, and see who has a mindset of growing together by focusing on future possibilities rather than current ones. Of course, this approach doesn’t always work, and it is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. But, we are seeing writers who are consistently working with us on their second and third books, so it seems to be working.



We plan to expand our business both domestically and internationally based on Korean content.



You have been featuring a wide variety of essays in the Yeon-series Essay series. It seems that the candid stories of new writers, which are hard to find in other publishing houses, resonate with readers. What are the characteristics of the Yeon-series Essay series?


Literature, art, or any field that proclaims to be art, tends to be split between popularity and artistry, or defined by someone or some group of people. If we look at music alone, how much of it is popular (or pop), and how much of it is so-called artistic? In fact, pop music can be just as artistic as classical music - Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature! On the other hand, some works can be a craze of their time, and disappear without a trace after just a few years.
However, even in the Korean publishing industry, it seems that there are quite a few essays that have been successful thanks to marketing that fits in with the so-called “trend of the moment,” even for best-selling essays that are popular and sold well. Therefore, we wanted to publish essays that might not be close to “art,” but have a little more thoughtfulness and depth than the popular ones as well as unique Korean characteristics. As we thought about what would make a book last over many years, we concluded that it is “Korean lyricism.” In fact, poems and literary works that are read for a long time have this lyricism of the times.
The Yeon-series Essay began with the intention to put more emphasis on the unique characteristics of each writer, and to talk openly and candidly with the writers for further direction, as our partner writers were all new to the literary world. Thankfully, some of them saw meaningful results. To pick a few books that can represent the Yeon-series Essay series, those that show the most Korean-style lyricism, we would like to recommend reading Nowhere to Go Even Though I Wear My Cloth and If You Are Struck by Lightning, I Will Be an Ant. These books have built up a devoted fan base, and we believe that if the beauty and lyricism of the Korean prose are translated well, they will also do well in international markets.


Nowhere to Go Even Though I Wear My Cloth

If You Are Struck by Lightning, I Will Be an Ant

Nowhere to Go Even Though I Wear My Cloth and If You Are Struck by Lightning, I Will Be an Ant



Nowhere to Go Even Though I Wear My Cloth is a story about the wanderings, emotions, and poetic expressions of a queer woman in her 20s, with beautiful prose and excellent descriptions, giving off a deep and lasting impact. Another book, If You Are Struck by Lightning, I Will Be an Ant, is a book about an anxiety disorder suffered by an artist in her 20s based in the UK. It is the detailed psychological descriptions and heartfelt experiences that seem to have resonated so much with readers. Both authors have a distinct personality that makes them inimitable, and that is probably why they have developed such a devoted fanbase.


How do you discover new writers? Do you have special know-how to find talented new writers?


We use a two-track strategy: discovering potential writers among the manuscripts submitted to the company, and seeking talented writers on Instagram or blogs. New and experienced writers have their own strengths, but as Happywell Publishing lacks competitiveness regarding size, brand awareness, and capital, we have been strategically discovering creative new writers and helping them maximize their unique characteristics and charms. That was how we managed to survive, and though not complete, the strategy has grown into a kind of system.
Also, as new writers are fast absorbers and as we choose talented writers from the first place, we try to have enough time to discuss the content’s direction and edit the manuscript. We sometimes ask for things that might not be accepted by experienced writers. Of course, all of the process takes place based on mutual understanding and trust as we spend enough time sharing and debating about various materials. So, some books took more than a year for the reorganization of the script only, and some even took more than two years.


The book The Secret of the Most-Viewed Videos, published in 2021, was the first book by Kim Seung-Il, a former journalist. While it had good outcomes in Korea, we heard that the book was exported to Taiwan last year as well. What kind of book is this?


The Secret of the Most-Viewed Videos is a book that analyzes the contents of million-subscriber YouTube channels, K-movies, and K-dramas, and explains the principles of making content “fun” and how to create content such as YouTube movies, with the author’s own logic. The book was well received in Korea, and when we recently contacted the Taiwanese publisher, they told us that they are working on the book, aiming for publication in October this year. We were grateful for the book’s success in Korea, where it managed to do a good job even though we lacked marketing capital, and we hope that it will do even better if it is published in Taiwan. Also, considering the growing interest in K-Contents overseas, we think the book has a lot of potential not only in Taiwan but also in other countries.


The Secret of the Most-Viewed Videos

Somehow I Think I Know

Love Filling the Margins

The Secret of the Most-Viewed Videos, Somehow I Think I Know, and Love Filling the Margins



Happywell Publishing’s books met international readers at the 2022 Visiting Korean Book Fair in Vietnam. What books did the local market respond to?


As Vietnam is a country with a rapidly growing economy, we felt that local publishers were more interested in practical and educational books. In the case of Happywell Publishing, which focuses on emotional essays, we unfortunately did not get the final contract. Still, we felt that it was significant that we could see their interest in a number of books. In particular, the illustrated essay Somehow I Think I Know by artist Geum Na-Rae and Love Filling the Margins by former KBS announcer Yoon So-Hee, written in the “language of love filling the empty rooms,” caught people’s attention.


Are there other books of yours that you would like to advertise to international readers?


If you are looking for a book that gives you a glimpse into the literature and times of Korea during the Japanese occupation, we recommend reading Modern Gyeongseong and Post-War Seoul. This book traces the development of modern culture (1910s-1940s) from Gyeongseong (the former name for Seoul) during the Japanese occupation to Seoul after the liberation, and what it took to transform it into an independent culture that was not simply transplanted from Japan, but also survived political violence. The roadmap of modern culture presented by Modern Gyeongseong and Post-War Seoul compresses the function of cultural history from the perspective of cultural aspects that appeared in works of art, articles, and reports. This book examines the past and future of Gyeongseong and Korea through literary and artistic works, advertisements, articles, and reports from the 1910s to the 1940s.
The next book we would like to recommend reading is Kim Gyungmi’s Banga Food Story, which captures the essence of Korean cuisine. It is a Korean cookbook centered around the traditional food style “banga,” which was mainly enjoyed by the yangban (aristocrats) during the Joseon Dynasty. It features the most traditional and luxurious Korean food, and is composed of detailed recipes of traditional Korean dishes along with the writer’s own essays on cooking. The author is a Presidential Award-winning kimchi expert and a researcher of traditional Korean cuisine who follows in the footsteps of the masters of banga food.
We also suggest reading Hitler’s Doctors by Yang Sung-Kwan. It is a story about people in power and their illnesses at every inflection point in history. From Hitler and Stalin to Thatcher, Reagan, Roh Moo-Hyun, and Kim Jong-Un, the writer traces the lives, illnesses, and deaths of these powerful figures. The hilarious comments of Yang, who is also a physician, make for an entertaining read.


Modern Gyeongseong and Post-War Seoul

Kim Gyungmi’s Banga Food story

Hitler’s Doctors

Modern Gyeongseong and Post-War Seoul, Kim Gyungmi’s Banga Food story, and Hitler’s Doctors



We look forward to the next moves of Happywell Publishing, which will continue to spread happiness to readers through books. What are your future plans or goals?


While finding our own strategies to combat the weakness of our small size in the Korean market, we will continue to focus on discovering unique and potential writers and grow our business based on Korean content. In particular, we plan to grow our pure literature brand, Modern & Books, and the business and humanities brand, Drucker Mind, into more specialized brands. We will also continue to strengthen the e-book field and actively communicate with agencies so that we can be more recognized in international markets. Thank you, and we look forward to your continued support.




#Happywell Publishing#Drucker Mind#Modern & Books#Gapyeong#2022 Visiting Korean Book Fair in Vietnam
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