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K-Thrillers lead Hallyu publications in Europe

 

2018.06.28

 

As we are approaching the third quarter of this year, K-thrillers(Korean thrillers) are emerging as the new leading force in the world’s publishing market. And at the center of that whirlwind are authors like Jeong You-jeong, Kim Un-su and Seo Mi-ae. The attention on these authors - whose work can be summarized into three words: mystery, thriller, crime - has been heating up from global publishers. Not only has interest been burgeoning in Europe, especially English speaking countries there, but also in Asia. One point to note is that this interest from the global publishing market in Korean literature, especially K-thrillers, is not entirely new. Global publishers, especially those in English dominant countries, have consistently been drawn to titles in this genre. However, if that interest had not led to exports before, soft interest at home and a lack of sales marketing for these books were likely to blame. What is important is that despite many Korean authors continuously publishing diverse novels over the years inside the country, attempts at taking them abroad have been lukewarm. It is clear K-thrillers have had a slow start when compared with the success Korean movies of the same genre enjoyed at home and abroad. Despite the slow start, it is encouraging to know these books are now making inroads to book markets outside South Korea.

 

 

The translation rights for Jeong You-jeong’s The Good Son(Eunhaengnamu) have been sold into 16 countries so far: the United States, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Czech Republic, Turkey, Brazil and Italy. And as of now, the book has been published in France, England and the United States. One intriguing fact would be that England’s Goldsboro Books, known for providing its membership readers with autographed first edition copies, sold 200 pre-ordered copies of Jeong’s novel before the book was officially launched in early May this year. Since then the novel has been receiving positive feedback from readers there. In the United States, the novel was released on June 5 and the response has been equal to that seen in England. As an example, the first edition copies to be published in the United States all sold out in the pre-order stage, prompting the publisher to immediately provide more. Seven Years of Darkness(Eunhaengnamu), another novel by Jeong that was also adapted into a movie, has also seen much popularity. This novel has already been published in France, Germany, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan and is scheduled to be translated and published in Thailand. One new fact would be that Penguin Books in the United States has acquired the translation rights to this book, boding well for the author’s global success going forward.

 

 

Kim Un-su is one of South Korea’s writers who has taken the world’s publishing markets by storm over the past year through his novel, The Plotters(Munhakdongne). The novel tells the story of architects who are paid to plan out the deaths of others while an assassin carries out these plans for a price. Those who disappear one by one at the hands of these people appear in this novel. The fact that the translation rights to this novel were sold to 19 different countries even before the publication of an English version is a testament to his success. The English version of Kim’s novel is scheduled to be published in the second half of this year through Australia’s Text Publishing and after that the novel is expected to see even more demand. The markets where translation rights to The Plotters were sold are : England, the United States, Japan, France, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Mexico, Greece, Taiwan, Portugal, Bulgaria and Czech Republic. So far the book has been published in Japan and France. One interesting thing to keep track of going forward will be that Doubleday in the United States and Fourth Estate in England will be publishing Kim’s novel next year. These two publishers are known for their significant influence in English-language book markets. After the book is published by them, it is only natural to expect the novel will receive more attention. In addition to The Plotters, Kim’s Hot-Blooded that was published in 2016 has also been the subject of much attention. Translation rights for this novel have been sold to Germany, Italy and France.

 

 

Author Seo Mi-ae is known for her work as a screenwriter for television dramas and films. She recently transformed into a best-selling author with her novel The Night Your Star Vanished(Elixir). This is a thriller telling the story of a person who starts out on putting together a complex puzzle after receiving a note that says ‘The real culprit is elsewhere’. On this journey the main character discovers facts they were unaware of before while seeking out others involved in the book’s main plot. The popularity for Seo’s The Night Your Star Vanished comes amid interest for another novel by Seo called The Good Girl(novelmine) published in 2010. This book gained in popularity around the time when London hosted its annual book fair in April last year. The novel addresses the struggle by its main character who tries to keep a child’s soul pure and blocking the child from being influenced by an adult who has turned dark. It tells readers that serial murders do not occur just because of the actions of one individual but also because of families and society. After the April London book fair last year, The Good Girl saw its translation rights sold to Germany and Italy and most recently, to HarperCollins, one of the biggest publishers in the United States. Ecco Press, one of its imprints, will be publishing the book. It was the first time for a Korean book to be sold to HarperCollins.

 

 

By looking at these cases we can easily learn Korean literature has a different standing in the global market than it did before. Translation rights have been sold to some of the best publishers in the English language world such as Penguin, Knopf, Doubleday, HarperCollins, Little Brown UK and Fourth Estate. This is a clear shift compared to previous years, representing how differently Korean literature is being perceived now and how its power is growing in the global publishing market. Recently, another Korean novel called marilyn and me by Lee Ji-min has sparked interest. This is a story about Marilyn Monroe and her interpreter named Alice which takes place in February of 1954, shortly after the end of the Korean War. The novel tells their story over a course of three nights and four days, and hopes are high this book will also catch the eye of publishers outside South Korea.

 

 


Written by Joseph Lee, President of KL Management

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Joseph Lee, President of KL Management

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