게시물 상세

South Korea's Imprint System in Publishing

 

2019.10.07

 

Most well-known South Korean publishers have several imprints (independent brands under the same publishing house). This number can go up to double-digits for large publishing houses, while smaller publishers' number of imprints is usually in the single-digit range. Imprints are a way for publishers to expand their publishing range as well as the size of their business and improve profits.
Around 2005, the number of imprints grew rapidly in South Korea, and this trend was led by Woongjin Thinkbig, which managed more than 30 imprints at one point. They had a publishing system where they would recruit well-known people from the industry, like directors or editors, give them high wages and place them in charge of imprints. After looking at their performance for two years, the company would decide whether to extend their contract or not. In addition to Woongjin, Minumsa, 21st Century Books and Wisdom House, which are all book publishers, were mentioned frequently on the news whenever there was mention of imprints. In South Korea's publishing world, there was criticism over publishers' competition to recruit better editors and squabbling over capital, but now, imprints have become a natural part of publishing culture for publishers to run their businesses.
Publishers that specialize in certain types of books are bound to dream of becoming big publishing houses that can release all types of books. Imprints enable publishers to transform themselves and publish different books of various genres, jumping beyond any rigid company images they may have had. Today, not only do regular publishers have imprints, but university presses and small publishers also have imprints. So, at times, 'imprints' is also used interchangeably with the word 'brand'.

 

Imprints in South Korea are a way for publishers to expand their publishing range as well as the size of their business and improve profits, and today, imprints have become a natural part of publishing culture for publishers to run their businesses.

 

Currently, Munhakdongne Publishing Group dominates South Korea's publishing industry when it comes to imprints. Munhakdongne has 24 subsidiaries and imprints. The publishing house was established in 1993 as a literature-focused company with the motto, "Dreaming of the most active and creative path between humans and the world". Through its magazine and literary awards (novels, new writers, children's literature), the publishing company is at the forefront of the industry when it comes to discovering new Korean authors. It is also known for publishing an expansive range of literature, from non-Korean classics to the latest novels. In the case of foreign literature translations, editors will scrutinize translations, comparing them to the original text and in the case of some books for which several translations already exist, Munhakdongne will refer to those existing translations. The publishing company has quickly established itself as one of the country's representative publishing houses for literature. Some of its subsidiaries and imprints are as follows: 'Gyoyu Books' which specializes in liberal arts and general education; 'Geulhangari' that focuses on general education books on history, philosophy and science; 'Namueuimaum' for books on religion, the environment and ecology; 'Artbooks' for books on art; and 'Anibooks' for comics (source: Munhakdongne's official website). Munhakdongne says it is creating a plentiful and colorful world through its diverse subsidiaries and imprints that each have their own sound and light.
The biggest characteristic of Munhakdongne's imprints is that opportunities are open for anyone to try and manage an imprint under the publishing company. If you are someone in the industry who has a sharp eye for planning and executing but don't have the capital and human resources, you may be able to establish an imprint with Munhakdongne's capital and system. Munhakdongne guarantees independent operations for imprints under its name. The heads of the imprints receive 20 percent of profits in addition to their contracted salaries. Also, after two years depending on the performance of the imprint, the business could be spun off into a subsidiary corporation. Gyoyu Books made the transition into a subsidiary from an imprint in June 2019. Before becoming a subsidiary, imprints can only have their own editing team and marketers while other parts of the publishing system are shared with Munhakdogne. Heads of subsidiaries can own up to 75 percent of the company. If they own over 51 percent of the subsidiary, they can choose to leave Munhakdongne altogether. 'Bookhouse', 'Dal' and 'Humancube' are examples of publishers that were spun off into independent publishers from Munhakdongne. Munhakdongne has created this ladder-like system where imprints can evolve into subsidiaries, then later, independent publishers, enabling talented people in the publishing industry to have a vision for themselves. This open system is worth focusing on as it is a combined system where the company can create profits but also encourage publishing individuals to achieve accomplishments of their own.

 

<The Corrupted Resistance (Gyoyu Books)>, <Flower Pictures Have Bloomed (Art Books)>, <The Discovery of the Norm (Bookhouse)>

The Corrupted Resistance (Gyoyu Books), Flower Pictures Have Bloomed (Art Books),The Discovery of the Norm (Bookhouse)

 

Meanwhile, Minumsa Publishing Group is a company that has had its own in-house brands since the 1990s, which would make it the earliest of its kind. Founder Park Maeng-ho who established Minumsa in 1966 said in a collection of interviews that he had started brand diversification to avoid criticism from other publishers that too many Minumsa books were introduced by the media and out of the need to promote more Minumsa books in media. With the thought "to collect the people's righteous sound", Minumsa has become a large pillar of South Korea's book industry, publishing Korean and global literature as well as academic books. Some Minumsa brands include 'Biryongso (1994)' for children's books; Biryongso's subsidiary brands 'Gorilla Box' and 'Chameleon'; a science-specializing affiliated company called 'Science Books (1997)'; 'Minumin'; Minumin's faction brand called 'Golden Bough'; 'Panmidong' for religious books; 'Banbi'; and 'Semicolon' for visual content like art, design, architecture, photography, movies and comics.
Mirae-N, an education publisher and energy company, was first established in 1948 as Daehan Textbook and to mark its 60th founding anniversary, the company changed its name. Under its educational publishing arm, the company produces mainly textbooks for elementary, middle and high schools as well as educational workbooks. It is also the owner of the country's oldest monthly literary magazine called Hyundae Munhak which has been in circulation since 1955. It also has imprints like 'Iseum' for children's books; 'Wiseberry' for books on liberal arts, economy and management, self-development; and 'Bookfolio' for essays, DIY books and webtoons.

 

<Worm Forecast (Biryongso)> <Under the Closed Eye (Golden Bough)>, <Real Study (Wiseberry)>

Worm Forecast (Biryongso), Under the Closed Eye (Golden Bough), Real Study (Wiseberry)

 

Woongjin Thinkbig started out as a linguistics company, selling cassette tapes on English in 1980. After it saw great success in its door-to-door sales business, it changed its name to Woongjin Thinkbig in 2007. A large chunk of South Korea's publishing market is comprised of children's books. Woongjin publishes workbooks and reading material for children, and it also has a 'book club' program where customers can have educational content and reading material all in one tablet PC. Although it had more than 30 imprints at one point in time, the company found itself in financial hardship after it had aggressively expanded into other industries. Its publishing brands like 'Woongjin Junior', 'Leaders Book', 'Galleon' and 'Woongjin Jisikhouse' are well-known.
Gimmyoung is one of the country's best publishers when it comes to advertisements and marketing. After being founded in 1982 until the 2000s, it was renowned for churning out bestselling books. Currently, it operates 'Bichae' which specializes in literature from inside and outside the country; 'Poiema' for books on Christianity; 'Gimmyoung ON' for books on general education, liberal arts and practical use for readers in their 20s to 40s; and 'Junior Gimmyoung' for children's books. The company also runs an educational brand specializing in hands-on experiences and field trips called 'School Gimmyoung'.

 

<The Right to do Nothing (Galleon)>, <Demilitarized Zone (Junior Gimmyoung)>

The Right to do Nothing (Galleon), Demilitarized Zone (Junior Gimmyoung)

 

Wisdomhouse Media Group came to be in 2005 after Yedam Publishing (founded in 1999) acquired Wisdomhouse in 2002. In 2012, the company made headlines as it launched the country's first podcast on books, called 'Lee Dong-jin's Red Bookstore'. Lee was a film critic at the time, and this podcast is popular to this day. Wisdomhouse mainly publishes books on economics, management, self-development and comics. Its subsidiaries include 'Yedam' for literature, liberal arts and art; 'Morning of History' for history books; 'A Harmonious Life' for religious and meditation publications; 'Yedam Friend' for educating children; 'Scholar' for children and teens' books; and 'Magic School' for educational books for young children.
Dasan Books operates an imprint system for other key genres in addition to its bread and butter books on economics and management. It has 'Dasan Life' for self-development and practical use; 'Dasan Chaekbang' for essays and literature; 'Objet' for general education, arts and essays; 'Dasan Chodang' for books on history and liberal arts; 'Dasan Edu'; 'Dasan Eorini' for children's books; and 'Nol' for literature for young adults.

 

<My Son is Going to Elementary School (Yedam Friend)>, <Visitors of Dawn (Dasan Chaekbang)>

My Son is Going to Elementary School (Yedam Friend), Visitors of Dawn (Dasan Chaekbang)

 

South Korea's imprint system is a type of testbed as well as a publishing industry model trend.
South Korea's publishing industry continues to make efforts to boost brand value through imprint systems.

 

Imprints in South Korea's publishing industry are a diversification strategy for publishers as well as a type of testbed to increase operating profits. It is also a trend in publishing industry models that reflects the dreams and passions of publishers to release more books of various genres. In an age where brand value decides customer loyalty, South Korea's publishers and imprints forge on today to create books readers will love with their brand value.

 

 


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

kbbok

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

If you liked this article, share it with others. 페이스북트위터블로그인쇄

Pre Megazine