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Exports to Southeast Asia

 

2018.05.30

 

 

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As publication business exchanges with China have declined exorbitantly over the past 18 months, South Korea's publishing industry has turned its eye towards Southeast Asia and exports to this region have been increasing as a result. Along with efforts to make up for the gap created by declining publishing trade with China, South Korean publishers seem to have come to the conclusion they must expand their territories to move in line with today's changes. Exchanges with those in the publishing industry in Southeast Asia began around 2005 and have been continued ever since. However, one thing that stands out between then and now is the fact that Korean publishers are now creating more diverse content in a number of areas and they are also making more aggressive moves to enter the market in Southeast Asia. On top of this, the 'traveling book fair' project that has been operated by KPIPA over the past several years seems to have had a positive impact on South Korean publishers trying to do business there. The project has found itself in Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta. With those cities as business centers, South Korean publishers have been able to make exchanges in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia centered on those cities.

 

As the Thai publishing market has grown, making it capable to accept more diverse Korean publications, the types of Korean books being sold there have shown more variety. The most attention has been seen towards romance and mystery novels, not barring web novels. These would be typical literature ordinary readers can find and enjoy either online or offline. In the case of online novels, they are released as episodes in a series online and later published in book format if the series attracts enough popularity. Thus, South Korea's colorful online novel content has a platform in Thailand upon which it can build upon and Korean books already in paper format can also be published online in a series, making it possible for physical books to become re-published on the internet. This is expected to create encouraging market conditions for Korean publishers. Thai readers have also shown interest in books that have already become bestsellers in South Korea. Recently exported novels to Thailand include Cho Nam-joo's Kim Ji-young Born in '82 (Minumsa), Jeong You-jeong's The Good Son (EunHaeng Namu Publishing Co) and Jeong's Seven Years of Darkness. ELT books have also drawn interest. In the past, if these books were only sought after by younger readers, they are now being read by adult readers as well. One thing to focus on regarding this is the fact that readers in Thailand are also reading Chinese history romance novels, leading to a boost in these kinds of books. Thus, more Korean history romance novels that have a competitive edge should be found and introduced to Thailand when Thai readers have an active interest in Korean books.

 

Meanwhile, it is a well-known fact that the Vietnamese publishing market has been consistently expanding. According to publishers in Vietnam, sales in 2017 rose some 20 percent from the previous year. Streets lined with bookstores have popped up in key cities in Vietnam including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and various locations throughout the country have seen new bookstores being opened. Broad sales throughout the publishing market there from books for adults to children have been on the rise and of those, Korean books have secured a firm share. Supporting this has been the consistent number of Korean book exports to Vietnam. Observers can point out the overall scale of the Vietnamese book market is still quite small, but it is attractive for publishers to see local readers there enjoy a vast variety of books. Among novels, Pyun Hye-young's The Hole (Moonji Publishing), Kim Hye-jin's About Daughter (Minumsa), Hwang Jung-eun's One Hundred Shadow (Minumsa), Park Hyun-wook's World Without Virginity (Munhakdongne Publishing), Park's Bird Is (Munhakdongne Publishing) and Jeong Ho-seung's Lover (Yollimwon). These books are all known for their unique content. Non-fiction bestseller's like Lee Ki-ju's Temperature of Language (Malgeulteo) and essays including Lee Hye-rin's I Am Happy To Be Alone, But I Don't Like I Am Alone Now (Frenemy) have been exported. Oriental medicine doctor Lee Jin-won's Goodbye Irritable Bowel Syndrome (BarunBooks) has also been sold into Vietnam while for children, Go Hye-jin's Going Home (Dalgeurim) and Namkung Jeong-hee's The Happy Story of Mr. Anchor (Yellowpig) can be found there.

 

One other market in Southeast Asia that must be mentioned is Indonesia. The publishing market here too, isn't large but the country has seen firm demand for books for children as well as literature, non-fiction and self-help books. Recent books that have been exported to Indonesia would be Pyun Hye-young's The Hole, Han Kang's Human Acts (Changbi Publishing), Jeong You-jeong's The Good Son and Ahn Do-hyun's The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher (Munhakdongne). Indonesian distributors tend to import books that have already proved their worth in not only South Korea but on the global stage as well. For underage readers, Kim Su-young's Magic Cafe (Wisdom House) and Song Ah-joo's Skateboard, Not Smartphone (Byeolsoop), Song's A Girl Jindalrae's Puberty Party (Byeolsoop) and Park Hyun-kyung's My Robot Friend Andy (Byeolsoop). Self-development books that have been exported to Indonesia include Lee Ki-ju's Temperature of Language and Kim Ju-hyung's The Things That The Twenties Should Prepare (Mirae365).

 

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Korean publishers should be aware of what kinds of books generate what size of interest locally in Southeast Asian book markets including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. They too, have books and authors that have garnered global interest equal to that of some Korean authors. There are also unique books there including novels, non-fiction and even children's books. However, it is still difficult for South Korean readers to find the works of these authors in bookstores in South Korea. Culture is interesting when it is communicated and exchanged. In that process we discover one another and seek things from each other. I now hope that many diverse and excellent publications out of Southeast Asia will be exported to South Korea. Amid this activity, Korean books that have Korean culture will also be able to move more actively than before into those regions.

 

 


Written by Joseph Lee, President of KL Management

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Joseph Lee, President of KL Management

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