MCST Announces the 2022-2026 Publishing
Industry Promotion Plan
Fostering K-Culture through Books and Building a Cultural Powerhouse through Publishing
“Books” are the core content that has been with humanity for a long period of time. However, the domain of each type of content and the boundary between them have become unclear these days. Today, publishers are not just coming up with publishable content, but are expanding their business into e-books and audiobooks, not to mention other cultural fields such as the film, game, and music industries. As such, the publishing industry takes on different content-based roles, crossing the traditional frontier of “print books.”
However, unlike the diversified channels for publishing content, readership is falling every year. People now prefer video services like TV, YouTube, and Netflix rather than books. The average annual percentage of Koreans reading books is 47.5%1), which means that around 5 in 10 people read more than one book a year. This was the first time the rate had dropped below 50% since the original poll. Yet, as the increase of people in their 20s and 30s reading e-books and audiobooks is clearly shown in each media, it seems that the demand for books apart from paper books is on an upward trend.
Along with the changes in the publishing industry, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism2) in Korea announces the “Publishing Industry Promotion Plan” every 5 years. The fifth plan was announced this August. The latest plan consists of 4 promotional strategies and 12 tasks considering the changes in the publishing industry, such as the heightened diversity and utilization of publishing content, fall in the reading population, growth of Korean publications overseas, and expanded influence of online book distribution. Following is a brief summary of the plan.
2022-2026 Publishing Industry Promotion Plan
Books for All
|(Task 1-1) Address diverse demands
(Task 1-2) Increase public demand for books
(Task 1-3) Create sources of demand across the world
|(Task 2-1) Strengthen the competitive edge of local (small-scale) bookstores
(Task 2-2) Upgrade publishing and distribution practices and systems
(Task 2-3) Revitalize local publishing
Books towards the Future
|(Task 3-1) Enhance digital capabilities
(Task 3-2) Build a system to train publishing professionals
(Task 3-3) Revitalize the ecosystem for innovative publishers
Governance for Books
|(Task 4-1) Reform the relevant laws and systems
(Task 4-2) Strengthen policy cooperation and promotion
(Task 4-3) Build the capabilities of KPIPA
1. Books for All
The “Books for All” strategy aims to provide a sustainable growth engine for the publishing industry by making the people’s reading environment flexible, supporting various members of society to engage in reading activities without discrimination, and creating new demand. The reading population in Korea has been in decline since 2021 due to the low birth rate and aging. The number of readers has indeed fallen due to such demographic changes, but the readers’ preferences have become more specific and diverse. Therefore, the strategy mainly covers customized support for various, different members of our society, considering the increase in the aging population and multicultural families.
Also, the ministry aims to support the publication of books reflecting the major interests of senior citizens, and provide systematic support by expanding the “Big Font Book Project” in public libraries. In addition, for multicultural families (370 thousand people) accounting for more than 2%3) of the entire population, the strategy looks to promote “two-way translation support” for both parents and children to enjoy reading together and support reading programs considering the unique characteristic of such families by cooperating with multicultural family support centers.
In addition, the ministry aims to establish foreign promotion strategies by country and region to broaden the Hallyu (Korean wave) of publications. Along with Hallyu, the popular culture, it is necessary to seek opportunities to boost the advancement of Korean books in the global market. Moreover, the expansion of international trade is necessary to boost the export abroad of Korean publications as original content, in conjunction with multi-content in the publishing industry. In addition, the ministry aims to strengthen the competitiveness of children’s books and picture books – items that are highly attractive for export. The efforts for the strategy include: first, weighing up the support for Korean books’ commercialization in the international market through the export of original publications’ ancillary rights and various publishing formats. Second, hosting the “Korea-China-Japan Publication Exchange Special Exhibition,” and third, hosting Korea’s very own international book fair for children’s books, such as the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair. The strategy also includes the plan to cultivate “K-Book,” a comprehensive platform for the export of publishing content, so that it can serve as the practical medium for export and exchanges, growing up as the representative copyright exchange platform.
2. Books Everywhere
The crux of the “Books Everywhere” strategy is improving the space for book experiences for people to enjoy reading books everywhere across the country and advancing distribution channels that connect readers with books.
First and foremost, the ministry aims to provide consultations for the facility improvement of local bookstores or expansion of cultural activities, so that local bookstores can reinforce their competitiveness and further become cultural hubs. In particular, in areas that are losing bookstores, the strategy seeks to test “small bookstores,” such as pop-up stores, over a period of time. It also aims to facilitate cooperative projects so that public libraries can coexist with local bookstores by encouraging public libraries to purchase books from local bookstores and by opening co-organized book festivals.
In addition, to boost transparency and efficiency in the publishing and distribution sector, the ministry aims to upgrade publishing/distribution data centering on the Korean Standard Publishing Distribution Data Hub System (KOPDS) set up in September 2021. It also plans to improve the environment for different parts of the industry, such as publishing houses and bookstores, to use the platform with greater ease.
3. Books Towards the Future
The third strategy, “Books Towards the Future,” focuses on preparing for the era of trans-media, in response to the changing atmosphere in the publishing industry, by supporting the utilization and expansion of IP for publications as original content.
This strategy lays out the plan to fortify the content-utilization capacity of those in the publishing industry by supporting their exchange with others in different industries, building the “Comprehensive Support Center” within the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA). Also, for outstanding human resources to continue to flow into the publishing industry, the consortium between universities, graduate schools, and industries is looking to operate an on-the-ground training curriculum, actively utilizing industry-university cooperation. In particular, considering the growth of the webnovel market and the likelihood of the market expanding into other fields, the ministry plans to set up training courses in the field of webnovel and publication Ips and cultivate future talents.
In particular, the strategy aims to build on the capacity of the “Start-up Support Center” that provides training, consultation, and infrastructure necessary for businesses in their infancy stage, considering the characteristic of the publishing industry where it is relatively easy to start a business.
4. Governance for Books
The fourth strategy, “Governance for Books,” outlines the plan to establish a “public-private cooperation system” for the publishing industry to grow with public policies and institutional support.
In particular, the strategy includes reengineering the “Publishing Industry Promotion Act,” marking its 20th year of enactment in 2023. Currently, the applied scope of the act is limited to the administrative concept of publications. However, the strategy plans to redefine the concept of publishing, reflecting the current situation where the meaning of publishing is broadening and changing. Furthermore, by examining the linkage with the legal system of various cultural industries such as the Copyright Act, Content Industry Promotion Act, and Promotion of Cartoons Act, it aims to improve the current system by updating parts of provisions.
The publishing industry is currently innovating in this process,
focusing on the content market as opposed to the book market.
In response to the diversifying publishing industry, and to secure growth momentum for the sector, the ministry sought opinions from different industries, including consumption, distribution, and production, by segmenting the publishing industry and analyzing the outcomes and limitations of the previous plan implemented from 2017 to 2021. The opinions gave insights into industrial changes, flows, and areas that need further support. Two common ideas that came up were, “It is so challenging to continue doing the business,” and “But still, I cannot just give up everything because I love publishing.”
“Nonetheless,” the publishing industry has the largest sales among cultural industries in Korea, with average yearly sales of KRW 21 trillion. The publishing industry is currently innovating in this process, focusing on the content market as opposed to the book market. Also, it is changing in the direction of pursuing trans-media, which maximizes the values of the reading experience. This is obviously a time when traditional genres and media-centric value chains are losing strength, and the industrial structure and market should be restructured based on the original content. Unless we lose our love for publishing and books and adapt to the changing environment, I think the economic value of Korean publications will continue to increase. Thinking of visiting my local bookstore after finishing this article, I send my support to the next 5 new years of the Korean publishing industry.
2021 National Reading Survey (Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MCST)), biannually conducted
Population and Housing Census (Korea Statistics, 2021)
Written by Jo Min-Hee (Assistant Manager of the Publication Policy & Research Team, Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea)
Jo Min-Hee (Assistant Manager of the Publication Policy & Research Team, Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea)