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UU Press

One-man publisher, helping inner development




Of South Korea's publishers, 76.1 percent are one-person businesses. And among these, there has been one that has stood out in particular -- UU Press, established in 2012. UU Press, which has a joyful ring to its name, has gained popularity among South Korean readers gradually and is now firmly positioned within the sector thanks to its unique style. It may be an unfamiliar name to offshore readers, but it is a publisher attracting interest from readers in South Korea who love to read.
How was UU Press made? Its founder and CEO Seong-woong Cho's answer to that question was simpler and clearer than expected. “In order to do what I like and can do well for a long period of time,” he says. The following interview with Cho was held at the Peanuts Bookstore, a small bookshop in Paju, South Korea.





It's an honor for us to speak with UU Press, currently called the leader of South Korea's one-person publishers. Could you introduce your business to our readers?



UU Press is a small publisher that publishes humanities related books. We strive to create publications one by one that can help readers firm up their inner mentalities at a time when everyone feels like they are in hardship and facing difficulties. From 2012, we've published some 70 books. In terms of the physical aspect of our books, some defining characteristics of our books are that they are small, light and portable.




Our name "UU" comes from the four-word idiom "yoo-yoo-ja-jeok" which can translate into "live free from worldly cares". Personally, I have much interest in China and I partially came upon the name of the company while researching old Chinese classics. I was in search of a name easy to pronounce while not foreign to listeners and the name fit my needs well.



We are curious as to how you founded the company.



I worked for some 10 years as a publisher making books. I didn't start off in this industry and have tried other things, but eventually discovered I love doing this best and I enjoy it, too. I've also worked at large publishers, but ended up founding this one-person publishing company to steadily and continuously create books.
This is something that all publishers at publishing companies have in mind, but once you have some experience in this industry, you naturally become a manager. You are naturally revolved out of the actual process of creating books, and I wanted to do as much hands-on work in making books as possible. In this thought process, I realized it would be right to start anew when I was younger and stronger and created UU Press. As its founder, I plan books and do all the hands-on work, like reading drafts.



Looking at your catalog, we notice there are many books on liberal arts that anyone can read easily. Do you have a particular standard for books you publish?



The range of liberal arts books is far and wide. Of these, I have selected three themes I believe I know well and want to master. These would be 'study', 'classics' and 'China'.
When I say 'study' I don't just mean educational studying but study that helps people grow and mature inside. After I founded my business, the first book I published in 2012 was Firm Studying. It carried my wishes somewhat to create a strong publishing company and it did well in the market for a first publication.




I think 'classics' are something every publisher needs to tackle. They are required to do so and that's why I included this in the three themes. Lastly, 'China' is something I personally truly enjoy. I majored in Chinese language during university and am always mulling over ways to introduce themes from China to my readers. It might be combining 'study' with 'China'. In the case of  The Cat's Library published in 2015 written by Xiaoyuan Jiang, I tried to make the book so it would gain favor from readers who truly love books, rather than stress just China. We also have a series on Asian classics and are planning to continue publishing books in that series.





Isn't selecting authors important when it comes to meeting your standards?



I am in constant search of authors. My best sources are books, and I tend to look closely at books published by other companies that are in relation with my three themes. When I spot an author who has really good writing, I make a separate note of that person. When I have a specific item I want to create a book on, I sometimes find someone who shares my interest in that item or theme. Recently I befriended someone on social media whom I find interesting and plan books on what they're interested in or what they're thinking about.
Only once have we been able to publish a book where we received a draft first, instead of us reaching out to them. This book was the comic version of The Flavor of Verbs. It was created after someone drew a comic version of the original book and offered us the draft. The original book helps readers learn about Korean verbs through a story format and our version aids that education further through comics.





Your books' cover designs and their small size overall is striking. It's where UU Press' unique characteristics stand out the most. Does this have anything to do with the company's philosophy?



This is mainly thanks to my personal taste and our designer's. We decided to create handy, small books because I have many memories where my wrists or shoulders would start to ache from carrying around books all the time to read. And so after thinking of an economic format where we can also retain all the text we need, we came with our current book form. When possible, we try to use reused paper and this is also based on our wishes to create light books for those who enjoy reading all the time. Rather than aiming for people who usually don't read, I wanted to create books for people who already read extensively and I feel that has been reflected in the books' physical form.
The design of our books lies entirely on our designer, Ki-joon Lee. With the exception of two, three books, Lee has been responsible for all our book designs. Even before the company was founded, we spoke at length on what the books should look like. The conclusions we arrived at were: use many colors, avoid fonts that look like handwriting and keep away from intuitive photographs when possible. Our unique design can be easily noted when one takes a look at all our books, and we aim to maintain this design as it's received good responses. There are increasingly more people who spot our books on the bookshelves in stores and instantly say "Those are from UU Press" thanks to our being in the industry for several years now. I do believe our consistent design has helped in boosting our recognizability.



Do you have plans for book exports in the future? If you have a book you'd like to introduce to our readers, please tell us.



If you're a publisher, I think exporting books is something you would want to do. But in order to do this, the books should be acceptable broadly and be able to garner interest among offshore readers.




I can think of three books. First would be Won-seok Lee's the way to write a book review, which systematically tells readers what book reviews are and how to write them. So-young Kim's how to read children's books is a book that shows how to select children's books and how to read diverse books for children, like picture books, fairy tales, poetry, history books, science books, art books and books on society. Lastly, how to eat books by Yi-kyung Kim shows readers how to read books with specific examples to help them learn good, effective reading techniques. I believe these three books have good content that would be appreciated by foreign readers.


link UU Press website: http://uupress.co.kr

link UU Press FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/uupress




Written by Myung-im Nam


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