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South Korean Government Policies to Shore Up the Publishing Industry

 

2018.05.30

 

One characteristic of South Korea's publishing industry is that the government is heavily involved in the industry policy-wise. Before the South Korean government's declaration of democracy and the authorization of independent establishment of publishing companies in 1987, the military-dominated government oppressed publishers and announced many publication regulations. From 1993 when civilian administrations took control of the country and into the 2000s, the government launched policies to boost the publishing industry, introducing a completely different paradigm.

 

Backing this currently would be foremost the publishing culture and industry promotion act that was enacted in 2003 and amended several times. In adherence to this law, KPIPA was founded and the government now renews its basic plan for the promotion of the publishing industry every five years. The culture ministry currently has a separate bureau for the promotion of South Korea's publishing culture and reading. Its name well reflects what the bureau does - it is responsible for drawing up government policies to promote the various industries related to publishing, printing and reading. Carrying out these policies in detail would be KPIPA, or the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea. One interesting fact would be that regular publications like magazines, printing, reading and literature all have their own promotion laws and specific guidelines are created for these categories every five years. Of these categories, the only one that has its own legal institution is literature and according to the literature promotion act, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea is operated to introduce works of Korean literature to readers outside South Korea.

 

Several legal rules that have important meaning for publishers would be: legal obligations for publishers to submit books to libraries, fixed rates for books and exemptions on added-value taxes according to tax laws. Publishers are required to submit two copies of every newly published book to the national library and the National Assembly library. In return, the government gives the publishers half of the books' cost as subsidies. Fixed prices for books were enacted in earnest in 2003 and are now a requirement whereas previously publishers would have to negotiate with bookstores and other retailers regarding prices due to fair trade laws. The impact from this law has been quite large, as it caps discounts for books at 15 percent and details regulations on new listed prices. This price rule has also been applied to electronic books and all paper and electronic books are currently subject to the added value tax exemption rule that began in the 1970s.

 

The publishing promotion policies the South Korean government currently has in place spans a large number of areas including publishing, boosting reading rates and international exchanges. When looking at government projects that have been directly linked to the publishing industry, one can easily find those such as support for pre-production of excellent publication contents (financial support for authors and publishers), support for the dissemination of books that lag in commercial value (books designated as 'Sejong books' are purchased by the government for the purpose of donations to public libraries nationwide), production support for paper books to be generated into electronic books, management of small to medium sized bookstores (support for cultural activities) and support for the improvement of thepublication distribution environment (informatization of bookstores and distribution, formation of distribution order). They also include support for the introduction of Korean books outside South Korea (creating Korea booths at key international book fairs, holding traveling book fairs, providing support for Korean books released by foreign publishers), training of related personnel (support for visits abroad, internships at foreign publishers) and support for international exchanges (seminars for international publishing).

 

Policies aimed at boosting reading include government support for the Book Start program, which is geared towards infants and young children, support for managing book reading programs at libraries, reading coaching programs for those serving in the army (Korean men are obligated to serve), tax benefits for those who buy books, cyclical reading festivals to encourage reading throughout the country and designation of businesses that engaging in 'reading management'.

 

Some of these policies you will not find elsewhere outside South Korea. What spurred these rules and regulations would be several issues combined: the publishing industry in South Korea is dominated by small businesses (publishers, bookstores) that have difficulty staying profitable in contrast to other countries where the industry is formed on top of large publication houses, the underdevelopment of the public book purchasing market (lack of funding by libraries to purchase new books), limitations on exports abroad due to the language barrier, various market failures due to the closeness of the industry barring education related books and government subsidy programs. The policies mentioned above may look like they focus on helping publishers but ultimately they are aimed at readers. An important meaning these public policies take on would be the procurement of variety in publishing.

 

 


Written by Sung Sang-min (Culture critic, columnist)

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Sung Sang-min (Culture critic, columnist)

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