Laying Out the Foundation for Korean Law
Publisher Hyeonamsa was founded under the name of “Konguk Gongron” in 1945 when Korea was liberated from the Japanese occupation. Then, the name was changed to today’s Hyeonamsa with the pen name of founder Jo Sang-Won. It has become the bona fide publisher for Korean law, starting with the first statute book Law Book. Today, the publisher publishes general, liberal arts, and children’s books along with law books. Under the motto of “Coexisting life, coexisting books,” Hyeonamsa chooses its staff, writers, and readers as the secret supporters that helped the publisher devote itself to publishing for 76 years. Following is the interview with Hyeonamsa, a company that wants to become a “mature,” adult-like publisher.
What is the meaning of the name Hyeonamsa?
Hyeonam (玄巖) is actually the pen name of founder Jo Sang-Won. He founded “Konguk Gongron” in 1945 as a comprehensive magazine publisher. The company then changed the name to “Hyeonamsa,” following the pen name of the founder. Poet Park Mok-Wol gave the name Hyeonam to Sir Jo Sang-Won, which means “a rock covered with moss.”
What are the “good” books and writing publisher Hyeonamsa wants to make?
We think that good books and writing are those that encourage their readers to take a step forward themselves through books, no matter where they are in their life.
What standard does Hyeonamsa prioritize when it comes to choosing authors or works?
First of all, we choose books that talk about fresh topics in line with the rapidly changing generation that are necessary for new readers. Second, we try to discover authors that write in a way that today’s readers demand. Lastly, we look for works that deliver invariable values to readers that do not change over time.
Publisher Hyeonamsa is a leading publisher in law. Please introduce the first law book made in Korea, Law Book.
The Law Book was first published in April 1959. Nowadays, we call collections of legislation a “law book,” but around the time back then, it was like a brand name that referred to the “Law Book of Hyeonamsa.” Before that, such books were called “a compendium of laws,” a term brought in from Japan. So, to change this name, Sir Hyeonam created the “Law Book” with reference from Gyeonggukdaejeon and Taejonhoetong. And as his Law Book began to gain popularity, people started to call books of the same type as “law books,” and it eventually became a proper noun that refers to “a book of legislation enacted by the country” and was included in the Standard Korean Language Dictionary.
We have been publishing various law books
Please introduce us to some of the various law books published by Hyeonamsa.
As the publisher that made the “law book” for the first time in Korea, Hyeonamsa has been carrying out various activities to help the public have an easier understanding of the law. In 1964, we published Monthly Report of Law, which was the first law magazine. Since then, its name changed to Monthly Law Book, Law Times, Today’s Law, and Law & Biz, issuing more than 100 editions. In the 1980s, Hyeonamsa published Dictionary of Purified Legal Terms, which was an innovative attempt to change Japanese-style legal terms into Korean. Such contribution was recognized by the government, after which Hyeonamsa participated in the Easy-to-Understand Legislation Project in 2006 as an external specialist. Currently, Hyeonamsa produces many fun and easy law-related books for people to get more familiar with the law, apart from law books for professionals.
Twenty of the Greatest Constitutional Court Decisions in History of Korea, A Lawyer Who Reads Paintings, Thirty-One of the Greatest Trials in World History
What motivated Hyeonamsa to publish diverse law books?
In April 1959, Hyeonamsa published a statute book with the title “Law Book” for the first time in Korea. Using the unique editing skill (referring to relevant provisions) developed by Sir Hyeonam Jo Sang-Won, where it had been difficult for people to look up legislations without expertise, the book received an explosive response from readers as it allowed anyone to make use of legislations. Not surprisingly, the book recorded sell-outs every moment its copies were made available to the public.
What books would you like to recommend to our readers?
Well, as it is hard to choose a few books as we’ve been publishing so many fine books, we would like to pick some of the recently published books that were impressive to us. The first one is Seoul Solutions, written by professor Kim Sung-Hong of the Department of Architecture at the University of Seoul. This is the last volume of the “City Architecture” series consisting of three volumes. It talks about the definition of “good architecture” and the urban planning and architectural issues Seoul has while suggesting a solution to resolve them in a proper way.
Seoul Solutions, Classic Music of the Day, An Actor Under the Stage
Keeping the core as we publish books to communicatewith the new generation takes much more effort and consideration.
Please share with us how you feel about the path Hyeonamsa has been walking on for more than 70 years.
Well, the current staff members of Hyeonamsa are not from around 1945 when the publisher was established, but are like the juniors walking in the footsteps of those who led Hyeonamsa before us. So, it would be nearly impossible for us to dare talk about how we feel about the past 70 years of history, as we have not, nor can we, fully experience those times. Instead, as we work in a company more than 70 years old, we get to think that it is never an easy thing to stay devoted to one area for such a long period of time. Also, while being a relatively old company, keeping its core while publishing books to communicate with the new generation in this rapidly changing era seems to take more effort and struggles.
What are the future plans of Hyeonamsa?
Hyeonamsa marks its 76th anniversary in 2021. We hope to continue walking on this path for the next 100 years and beyond. Rather than “getting old” over time without putting in extra efforts, we would like to be a publisher that communicates with the new generation and keeps to the core as a “true grownup.”
Organized by Lee Ji-Hyeon