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South Korean Literature, Expanding Its clout in Global Markets

 

2018.07.31

 

South Korean literature has recently been entering a number of different countries with different languages, instead of focusing on one language or one country. The situation has shifted from before, when South Korean original novels would find demand after a film or television adaptation gained in popularity or vice versa. This shows South Korean literature’s presence in the global publishing market and that Korean literature has been gaining in competitiveness in a number of different markets.

 

 

Around the time of the New York Rights Fair that was held recently from late May to early June, Lee Ji-min’s novel Marilyn and Me (That Book) was introduced to the market and since then has been the subject of great interest. This novel tells the story of Marilyn Munroe and her interpreter Alice in the February of 1954, just after the Korean War ended in a truce. The story of the two women’s four-day journey has drawn intrigue not only from English speaking countries but a number of different countries in Europe as well. Lee is also the author of Modern Boy (Munhakdongne) which won the Munhakdongne writer’s award and when she is not writing novels, she also spends her time working on movie scripts. Modern Boy was adapted into a movie in 2008 and gained much attention. Marilyn and Me was first sold into the United Kingdom. The first offshore publishing company that acquired translation rights to the book was none other than 4th Estate, a subsidiary of HarperCollins in the United Kingdom. Soon after, the book was sold into Germany. Hopes are high the book will sell elsewhere as there have been many publishers reaching out from a number of different countries.

 

▲ Cover art for the German version of Kim Ae-ran’s The Youngest Parents and the Oldest Child

 

 

Author Kim Ae-ran’s The Youngest Parents and the Oldest Child(Changbi) was recently sold into Russia. This novel has already been translated and released in Germany, France, China, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. In 2014, this novel was adapted into a film of the same name starring South Korean film stars Kang Dong-won and Song Hye-kyo, stirring much interest. It tells the story of the youngest parents and the oldest child and addresses tales of heart-beating youth and love. Jeong You-jeong, who is currently enjoying the global spotlight with her novel, The Good Son, recently saw the translation rights for her Seven Years of Darkness be sold to Russia. Expectations are rising that South Korean literature may see a boom in Russia.

 

▲ Cover art for the U.S. version of Lee Jung-myung’s The Boy Who Escaped Paradise

 

Lee Jung-myung’s full length novel The Boy Who Escaped Paradise (Yollimwon) was also recently sold into Taiwan. This book has been published in English in the United States and it is a ‘mathematics’ novel, with the author combining his unique imagination with a fist-clenching story. The main character has the mental capacity of a six-year-old but shows immense genius when it comes to mathematics. Through this ability, he sees through the mundane and dreams of a free and glittery life. In addition to his story, a woman who is trapped by the walls of reality as well as ideology, laws and the lust and failure of those who are trapped by money and lies all appear in this novel. Readers will be able to look at their own lives by reading about the math genius who can only interpret the world from a six-year-old’s point of view. The book has also been sold into Hungary and Turkey while Taiwan will be its first Asian country to be published in aside South Korea.

 

 

To Vietnam, author Park Min-kyu’s first short story collection Castella (Munhakdongne) was sold. This collection’s popularity in Asia has grown steadily, centered around Japan, and it will be interesting to see what kind of response the book draws from Vietnamese readers. Park is known for The Legend of the Earth Hero (Munhakdongne) and The Last Fan Club of the Sammi Super Stars (Hankyoreh Publishing) and this collection has 10 stories, which features his comical writing style well. The stories in the collection are ones that were published in various literary publications from summer of 2003 to spring of 2005 and will provide fresh insight into writing interesting and funny content.

 

 

Another work of Korean literature that was recently sold to Vietnam and cannot be left out would be poet Park Joon’s first work of prose Nothing Will Change Even If I Cry (Nanda). Park is known for his book of poems, I Ate A Few Days On Your Name(Munhakdongne). This collection of prose is divided into four parts but critics have said the stories flow together well, regardless of where you are in the book. When it comes to form, the book may seem like a hybrid of poetry and prose - one day it may read like a book of poetry and another, a book of prose.

 

 

Author You Sun-dong, also known for his work as a film director, drama producer and screenplay writer, had his first full length novel The Purloined Book (Book In Hand) sold into Indonesia. This novel was awarded a prize at a national story competition hosted by Korea Creative Content Agency(KOCCA) and after it won the prize, the novel was adapted into a play and webtoon bearing the same name. The play received rave reviews and has been playing every year after its first showing in 2014. The novel has details that cannot be fully depicted in neither the play nor the webtoon and hopes are high responses will be positive. Critics have also said this novel has shown a new facet of the Korean thriller as it tells the story of a screenplay writer Suh Dong-yoon, who is busy declining work requests after his work records hit after hit. Suh, in the book, is an unkind and sordid person and experiences a slump following his successes. The novel provides a different thrill for readers until the very end compared to other books, keeping hopes high demand for it will be strong in more countries outside South Korea.



Written by Joseph Lee, CEO of KL Management

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Joseph Lee, CEO of KL Management

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