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Risu·Reading Cat Publishing Company

Flowing through the village like a slow, clear stream Creating books that know me, that know the world




It has been nearly 18 years since two sisters started operating an independent publishing company together in a corner of an animal hospital. Seeking the nature of things that are not always visible, rather than things tangible and in this process, creating books that know 'me' and the world is what Risu·Reading Cat Publishing Company tries to pursue. We are in the age of competition amongst independent publishers. The following is a Q&A with Risu·Reading Cat Publishing Company, operated with unique individuality.





We'd like to ask you to introduce your company to our readers in South Korea and abroad.


CEO Hyun-jung Kim (Kim from below)

Risu Publishing Company is a business run by a family and even the name comes from my firstborn child. 'Risu' means 'the village's water'. From a long time ago, people used to sit by the water, working, talking and gaining knowledge or comfort from it. I thought it would be meaningful to become a publisher like that water in the village. Our slogan is 'Books that know me, books that know the world' and we try to create books that can be 'nutritious' for people's lives. And in our endeavors, we seek happiness, warmth, sharing and the substance of things.
Risu Publishing Company is a business run by a family and even the name comes from my firstborn child. 'Risu' means 'the village's water'. From a long time ago, people used to sit by the water, working, talking and gaining knowledge or comfort from it. I thought it would be meaningful to become a publisher like that water in the village. Our slogan is 'Books that know me, books that know the world' and we try to create books that can be 'nutritious' for people's lives. And in our endeavors, we seek happiness, warmth, sharing and the substance of things.



You publish books under two labels: Risu and Reading Cat. Can you tell us the difference between the two labels?



Even today I spotted the cats that wander to and from our offices and the hospital resting on books. In 2016, we founded our new label, Reading Cat, in order to make books that make readers feel like they've gone on a journey in search of themselves.
The books we publish through 'Risu' are largely divided into two categories: our world and humanities travel logs called Ta-san-ji-seok series and essays on growing older. The first series especially marked our beginning at Risu Publishing Co and it means much to us because it has done well until now. It is a series that takes readers through several countries and cities and gives them a glimpse into the core of the respective cultures found there.
This series actually helped us begin our essays on growing old. The first book in our travel series was England, the Happy Country with Nothing to Change and someone who had read this book came to us, saying he would like to see the Korean translation of Ayako Sono's book, Discovering My Value after 40. Starting with this book, we have been publishing books on aging. The process we've gone through making books on aging wisely has actually had a positive effect on our lives. The steps we take in creating books not only sharpen our skills but have become a maturing process of our inner selves.



The label 'Reading Cat' was launched last year because we wanted to be closer to the younger generation -- to bring that process of maturing closer to them. We're seeing new words created every day to describe these young people and things they face, like job seekers or those who give up dating, marriage and children. They do not have easy lives. I wanted to give this generation books they could read to think about the value of their lives, happiness and the meaning of life. I felt they needed a turning point where they could focus on themselves rather than live lives evaluated by others. 'Living as me' is not limited to just young people, which is why I believe our books have done well across a large range of readers.



I've divided the characteristics of Risu and Reading Cat, but they all started from one common point. That would be seeking the essence of things unseen, rather than things tangible. We thought it was more important to realize the value of locations being traveled than just traveling to famous and fabulous places. We're also focusing on the strength of the mind that grows old wiser, rather than trying to look younger with age, or solely making financial preparations for old age. One example would be expressing a life of fulfillment rather than a life meant for show.



What are some of the difficulties managing an independent publishing company? And despite these, what makes your job so attractive? We'd also like to ask your specific vision for the company.



We have two workers at Risu and they are sisters. They do all the work from planning, editing, producing, promotion and managing office affairs. The work isn't divided and we are multi-players so at first all of this seemed like hurdles, but now when the publishing industry in changing worldwide, I feel this has become one of the positive points about working at an independent publisher. It's a very advantageous structure when it comes to linking up your readers and books compared to big publishers where all the tasks are divided.
We can manage our work in a comprehensive form; it keeps us focused and it's very efficient. The interests of our staff are directly connected to our work and it keeps us happy while doing it. More than anything else, this impregnability is a big asset when it comes to us closely communicating with our readers through social media.



Our vision stems from our most basic stance, which is keeping true to the essence of things rather than material things. We try to make valuable and useful books meticulously and continuously work to keep these books in close connection with our readers. And above all, we believe this work should be joyful and happy.
One of the results from our work has been the fact that our publishing company was able to set up shop on the book street near Hongik University. Readers who visit the 'Theme Walk' booth there will be able to spot our books. I think as an independent publisher, being able to manage your own bookshop and meeting readers up close while participating in lecture programs for authors are some of the appeals.



When you look at the titles of books published under Reading Cat, you can really sense that. We think another thing that appeals to readers is that your books are small and light to read. How do you select your content material and writers?



If you feel that way, then we've surely succeeded. When we started our Reading Cat label, we really conscientiously tried to make books that could easily be placed into handbags or jacket pockets. It's something that's gotten much support from actual readers. And this is something all other publishers will agree with me on, but selecting book titles is most difficult. We don't have our own secret. The titles are selected based on how long you think about the content material.



Aside our essays under Reading Cat, we have the Look at Yourself series, which is for short novels. When we first started the series, we thought it would be good to have something related to cats. We also wanted to combine this and the meaning of discovering true human nature within the novels. That's when we came up with Look at Yourself. When you read the title, the word "cat" is subtly heard within the words. We don't have separate guidelines for content or author selection. If the content or author can lead readers to lead lives that help them become themselves, then they are always welcome.



When creating books, planning and editing as well as book design are very important. Can you explain the thought process behind your cover designs?



Rather than focusing just on design; I want to say everything is connected as one -- planning, editing, designing and production. Our philosophy through all of this is to think over and over again so the intent of the authors is shown.
When we're signing contracts with our authors, we're asked this question quite often: "By when do we have to complete this manuscript?" We answer, "The deadline isn't important. Please take your time until you are satisfied with the writing."
This is the same for all the other steps in our book-making process. We try to take our time in creating completed books. The completion of our books is more important to us than time.



Regarding our cover designs, I'll try to take our recent book taking a bit of space as an example. Everyone has their own individual personalities. They each have their own thing they can do well, what they want to do and what they need to do to become happy. Despite this, we try to fit our happiness to the world's measuring stick but end up unhappy. This book stresses to readers they need to live as they are rather than focusing on what other people think.
We thought this should be reflected in our cover and thought repeatedly about how to visually express this. In this process, we went through so many cover design candidates. Finally, we ended up selecting a cover featuring a woman walking through a swimming pool. Everyone usually thinks swimming in pools is natural, but we wanted to show you can stand up to stereotypes and walk through water. Proudly and with ease. If walking is being you, then show that to the world, we wanted to say. I think our intent was delivered to readers well, considering the positive feedback we received. I do believe it was a big achievement, receiving that good feedback from most of our readers.



If there are books you would like to introduce to our readers, please tell us.



I would like to start off with our travel series, which has been with us from the beginning of our business. One interesting fact is that all of our authors are Korean. We intentionally work with local writers on this series because they can address curiosities usually had by other Korean people that cannot be resolved in foreign books. I can be confident when I say much effort has gone into these books by both author and publisher.



Of these, the first book England, the Happy Country with Nothing to Change(Published in 2000, Written by Sik Lee, Won-kyung Jeon) looks at England based on quality of life there. This book says the source of the country's power comes from its reason, rationality and tradition. The English may seem slow to change, but once you read into the rational thinking process behind them, you start looking back on yourself and the quality of life we enjoy.
The latest book in this series is the Story of Turks(Published in 2017, Written by Hee-chul Lee). This book carries much meaning in that it's the first book in South Korea on the Turks. It spans roughly 2,200 years of history, from the kingdom that arose from the grasslands of Eurasia in 209 B.C., to the Gokturks, Wigur and the Seljuk. It's not completely unrelated to Korean history, and it's a book that's received consistent attention from readers who love history. We've had 21 books in our world travel series and we're planning a different version of this series.
All Lives Help Each Other(Published in 2014, Written by Jong-mu Park) is one of Risu's books that has received the most awards. This book is the story of life, co-existing and ecosystems from by a veterinarian father to his daughter. In a simple narrative, the book describes the problems of today's 'survival of the fittest' ideologies and ways to resolve them. It has been selected as a recommended book by the culture ministry as well as one for underage students. It was also recommended by a teachers' group and as a book for a scientific essay contest in addition to a debate and essay writing competition. After its publication, we've consistently received requests for lectures, and its biggest strength is that there's no other book like it - an entry-level book on the environment, ecosystem and life.



Among our essays on growing old, No Age if Your Heart Beats(Published in 2014, Written by Wook Kim) is another I'd like to recommend. The author is 85 years old and is still working as a translator. The book features his essays on the meaning of growing pains when faced with old age and the courage and delight in finding your true life. The author of this book also penned our bestseller Taking A Bit of Space and took part in multiple translations.


link Risu·Reading Cat Websites : www.risu.co.kr

link Reading Cat Facebook: www.facebook.com/readingcat14

link Risu Facebook : www.facebook.com/risubook



Organized by Ji-hye Gwon
Writing and photographs provided by Risu·Reading Cat Publishing Company


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