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Current status of each field in the Korean publishing market

④ Social Science Publications






The 1980s were the golden age for social science publications in the Korean publishing industry. Under the ruling of the new military dictatorship, it was social science books and their readers that took the lead in the overall social transformation through intense democratic and labor movements. The books were the texts of social movement and transformation. Bookstores specialized in social science books, though most of them cannot be found today, thrived next to colleges across the nation. With the “announcement of democratization” in 1987, Seoul Olympics in 1988, and the establishment of a civilian government in 1993, Korea has been pursuing cultural diversity amidst the paradigm shifts of political democratization, globalization, and becoming an information society, positioning itself as a responsible member of the international community. Social science publication is one of the publication fields that best show the present days of Korea and the awareness of Korean people.



Social Science Publication Status

Social science publications are broadly divided into “politics/society” and “economics/business administration.” The former category is subdivided into statistics, sociology, social welfare studies, politics, diplomacy, public administration, law, pedagogy, folklore, and military science. The latter category includes economics and business administration theory, distribution, marketing, and trade. The characteristics of the books can be divided into college textbooks, scientific books, and liberal arts books.
A total of 12,374 new social science titles were published in Korea in 2019, up 4.1% from the previous year (based on the statistics of the Korean Publishers Association). The circulation ratio of “politics/society” and “economics/business administration” for the past several years was 6 to 4 in the social science publications (based on the statistics on the publishing industry by the KPIPA). However, in terms of the actual size of the market, “economics/business administration” which is relatable to one’s daily life was approximately 2.7 times bigger than “politics/society” based on the statistics of Kyobo Bookstore. Regarding their share in the publishing market by time series, “politics/society” did not show a significant variation, while “economics/business administration” slowly grows every year. This is in line with the increasing influence of practical content in the Korean publishing market. Among the translated social science publications of which around 1,200 titles are published each year, those from the US and Japan showed a high percentage similar to the overall publication trend, followed by books from three European countries (the UK, Germany, and France) and China.


The “economics/business administration” field is increasing in its share in the market in the same context of the growing influence of practical contents in the Korean publishing industry.



Hot “politics/society” books


<A Good Discriminator>

<Strange Normal Family>

<Generation of Inequality>

A Good Discriminator, Strange Normal Family, Generation of Inequality


The keywords in the Korean social science publishing market in 2019 were “discrimination and hatred”, “inequality”, “generation”, and “wealth.” In terms of the “politics/society” category, A Good Discriminator (Changbi Publishers) by Kim Ji-Hye who called for an improvement of awareness to discrimination and hatred in our daily life and When Speech becomes a Sword (Across) by Hong Sung-Soo who organized social phenomenons related to hate expressions drew the greatest attention. Meanwhile, Strange Normal Family (Dongasia Books) by Kim Hee-Kyung that has been steadily popular since its publication in 2017 criticizes the outdated family ideology that only regards a specific family structure to be normal.
Generation of Inequality (Munji Books) written by Lee Chul-Seung who sparked interest in the issue of inequality from the viewpoint of generation theory, took the social monopoly of jobs by the so-called “386 generation (those who went to college in the 1980s)” as the main topic. For translated books, Dream Hoarders (Minumsa) by Richard Reeves, a researcher at Brookings Institution came into the spotlight. While criticizing inequality, the book pointed out the problem of the mid- to high-income families that contribute to it. Also, Betting on Famine: Why the World Still Goes Hungry (Galapagos Books, first print in 2007, revised edition) by Jean Ziegler, a Special Rapporteur on the right to food of the UN Commission on Human Rights, became a long-term steady-seller; his new book Le Capitalisme Explique a ma Petite-fille (Sigongsa) features himself telling his granddaughter about inequality around the world.


<Anti-Japan Tribalism>

<Japanese Imperialist Tribalism>

<Neo Pro-Japanese: Uncovering the Truth of “Anti-Japan Tribalism”>

Anti-Japan Tribalism, Japanese Imperialist Tribalism, Neo Pro-Japanese: Uncovering the Truth of “Anti-Japan Tribalism”


A change in the landscape of the Korean publishing industry is that publishers producing conservative books increased and those books are actually becoming bestsellers. Examples are: Anti-Japan Tribalism (Miraesa) by Lee Young-Hoon and others, Impeachment Inside Out (Guiparang) by Chae Myung-Sung which is a record of impeachment trials of former president Park Geun-Hye, The Road to Serfdom (Center for Free Enterprise) by Friedrich Hayek, Korea, Dominated by the Left (Hover Lab Co.) by Kim Se-Ui which is a commemorative edition for the 50th anniversary, Why are People Enthusiastic about Leftist Thinking (Gong Institute) by Gong Byeong-Ho, Password of the Third Floor Secretary Room (Guiparang), a testimony on North Korea by Tae Young-Ho, a defector diplomat (former North Korean minister to the UK), and What am I Fighting For (Think Smart) by Lee Un-Ju, a member of the assembly that called for the “innovation of the conservatives.”
The book of the moment among them was indeed Anti-Japan Tribalism. Being a collection of online lectures conducted by the Rhee Syngman School, the book aroused controversy as it wrote about ideas identical to those of the Japanese government regarding the historic affairs between Korea and Japan in the past, which are currently very sensitive issues. Turning into a social debate, this book sold more than 100 thousand copies in Korea, while the translated edition became a bestseller in Japan with more than 400 thousand copies sold. Then, the so-called “anti-publication” followed that criticizes the book. Japanese Imperialist Tribalism (Nexen Media) by Hwang Tae-Yeon and others, What is Wrong with Anti-Japan Tribalism (Wisdom House) by Kim Jong-Sung, and Neo Pro-Japanese: Uncovering the Truth of “Anti-Japan Tribalism” by Hosaka Yuji are the best examples.
In particular, Hosaka Yuji, a professor at Sejong University who naturalized as a Korean from being Japanese has been asserting that “Dokdo Island is Korea’s territory” regarding issues surrounding Dokdo Island, a sensitive territorial issue between Korea and Japan. In recent years, he disclosed the truth of Japan with his books Hosaka Yuji’s Japan Inside Out (Books Korea) and Why Shinzo Abe Wants to Pull Down Korea (Nexus Books). In his book Neo Pro-Japanese: Uncovering the Truth of “Anti-Japan Tribalism”, he regards Anti-Japan Tribalism to be the “Neo Pro-Japan” that brought most of the claims of the extreme Japanese rightists that lead anti-Korea sentiment and fiercely criticizes this point. Among the books about the aggravated relationship between Korea and Japan surrounding the compensation for victims of forced labor during the Japanese occupation, The Truth of Japan Conference (Ulysses Publishing Co.) drew readers’ attention. The former journalist of Kyodo News and a correspondent in Seoul, the writer analyzes the hidden truth of the Japan Conference, which is the root of the rightward shift in Japan.
Meanwhile, in the “politics/society” category, Diary of a Prosecutor (Bookie) by Kim Woong which gained popularity as an essay – he wrote this during his career as a prosecutor - was made into a TV series, The absent superpower: the shale revolution and a world without America (Kim & Kim Books) by Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist, The New Koreans (Sille Books) by Michael Breen, a British journalist, Prisoners of Geography (Sai Book) by Tim Marshall, a specialized journalist of international affairs, and Psychopaths Live in the Shadow of Everyday Life (Joongang Books), a collection of psychopath cases by professor Lee Soo-Jung, a representative forensic psychologist in Korea were popular among readers.



Hot “economics/business administration” books


<My Salary Independence Project>

<Super Gap>

<State of the Future>

My Salary Independence Project, Super Gap, State of the Future


The biggest hit during the past two years in “economics/business administration” was People Born in the 90s are Coming (Whale Books) by Lim Hong-Taek. Being a guide book for understanding the millennials born in the 1990s, it drew greater attention after president Moon Jae-In presented the book to all the members in Cheongwadae (Blue House). The book resulted in the “Learning the New Generation” boom along with various statistics, case studies, and interviews.

Most of the readers of “economics/business administration” books likely desire to be “rich.” It is perhaps the biggest common denominator of the human species. Examples can be found in the bestsellers’ list in 2019 as follows: the 20th-anniversary special edition (first printed in 2000, revised edition published in 2018) of Rich Dad Poor Dad (Minumsa) by Robert T. Kiyosaki which 3.5 million copies were sold in Korea as the new classic for investment techniques, The Millionaire Fastlane (Thoth) by MJ DeMarco, Dollars and Sense (Chungrim Publishing Co.) that features decision-making process on money from the viewpoint of a behavioral economist, Start Now, Get Perfect Later (Dasan Books) by Rob Moore, Principles (Hanbit Biz. Inc.) by Ray Dalio, the godfather of hedge funds, This is Marketing (Sam & Parkers) by Seth Gordin, the marketing guru, and Extreme Ownership (Maven) by Jocko Willink on how US Navy Seals, the strongest special force in the world, win the war.
Books that provide personal tips for investment techniques centering around stock and real estate investment are still widely popular among readers. The best examples are My Salary Independence Project (Leaders Book), First Time Studying Money (Dasan Books), The Next 10 Years of Real Estate (Life Run), Common Sense Dictionary for Salaried (Gilbut), and The Cakewalk series: Stock Market Investment (Gilbut).
Books featuring cases of successful people and great CEOs are topping the sales list. Grinding It Out (Sensio), an autobiography of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s and Super Gap (Sam & Parkers) by CEO Kwon Oh-Hyun of Samsung Electronics suggesting absolute technological competitiveness and innovative business administration strategies were particularly popular among them.
It would be easy to make money if one could foresee changing trends and the future. This is why books that comprehensively analyze rapidly-changing trends or those that predict the future are a must in setting business administration strategies. In short, they are like a reference book for companies. The first book on the list is Trend Korea (Miraebook) written by Seoul National University Consumption Trends Analysis Center led by professor Kim Nan-Do. The Center has been organizing the latest trends of Korea’s consumption and suggesting outlooks for the past 12 years; the series has become an irreplaceable content with hundreds of thousands of copies sold each year.


『포노 사피엔스』


『명견만리 : 불평등, 병리, 금융, 지역편』

Phono Sapiens, Shrinking Society, Perspective Insights: Inequality, Pathology, Finance, Finance, and Regions


For liberal arts books, Phono Sapiens (Sam & Parkers) by Choi Jae-Boong who analyzed the opportunities we can seize in the civilization created by smartphones as an engineer and a model designer, Shrinking Society (Medici Media) by analyst Hong Sung-Guk on survival in the low-growth era, Perspective Insights: Inequality, Pathology, Finance, and Regions (Influential) by the Perspective Insights crew of KBS are worth paying attention to. Perspective Insights was made into a book with the same title of a TV program which was appraised for its quality since it was first broadcast in 2015 to examine the flow of changes Korea and the global community are facing and to suggest visions for the future. This TV program is run in a unique style by linking documentaries that analyzed cases from in and out of Korea and lectures of renowned speakers; the whole content was adapted into 4 series of books. The notable point was the suggested value of coexistence and symbiosis of humanity for the future.


Various publishers in Korea are actively carrying out social science publications.


Many Korean publishers produce social science books. Amongst them, influential publishers in the field of “politics/society” are Pakyoungsa, Bobmunsa, Hanul M+, Hakjisa, Nanam, and Communication Books that publish scientific books and college textbooks. Also, among general liberal arts book publishers that recently showed good performance are Bookie and Kim & Kim Books which are especially strong in translated books, progressive publishers Changbi and Dolbegae, and conservative publishers Guiparang and Miraesa. Publishers that are focusing on “economics/business administration” are Business Books, Dasan Books, Book 21, Sam & Parkers, Hankyung BP, MK Book, Chungrim Publishing Co., Miraebook, Influential, Hanbit Biz. Inc., and Gilbut.



Written by Baek Won-Keun (President of Books & Society Research Institute)


Baek Won-Keun (President of Books & Society Research Institute)

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