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Dolbegae

Recording history step by step for nearly 40 years

 

2017.10.10

 

In the summer of 1979, publisher Dolbegae was founded. Since that time it has already been almost 40 years since the company started publishing meaningful books one by one like a stone, firm and steady. Today, it enjoys its leading position as a publisher that creates books on humanities, society and science. A publisher that creates books we all need to live today. A company that publishes honest books based on the trust from readers. These are all titles that well describe Dolbegae.
To meet with Dolbegae's executive editor Su-han Kim, we arrived at the book cafe on the first floor of the company's building in Paju City, called 'Spaces and Margins'. This special location aims to provide space for visitors to let go of their busy lives and find calm and rest, just like spaces you find in pages in a book. Amid the peaceful and quiet atmosphere, we spotted unique bookcases. The bookcase resembles the Mobius strip, in a reference to never-ending knowledge. The bookcase was created specially for the publisher and the books nestled inside helped to boost the hearty atmosphere of the company.

 

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KPIPA

Could you introduce Dolbegae and the work you do?

 

Kim

Dolbegae was created in 1979 and two years from now we will celebrate our 40th anniversary, which means we've been around the block now. I think readers will likely wonder about our company name 'Dolbegae' which means 'stone pillow'. We took it from the title of a book by Chun-ha Chang, a Korean independence activist against Japanese rule who also served in the Korean Liberation Army. This book is a non-fiction memoir on the independence movement against the Japanese and discusses freedom, peace, independence and democracy.

 

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Dolbegae

 

We believe books are an important medium that should go along with the flow of the times and also throw questions at society. As such, we aim to create honest and meaningful books with Chang's spirit and life as a benchmark. Today, I feel proud our publishing company has a firm position in the industry, recognized for our work publishing books on humanities, society and science.
As the executive editor, I am in charge of setting all the plans and editing direction for books to be published by Dolbegae. I'm also continuously thinking about what direction we should go as a publisher with all our other editors.

 

KPIPA

It seems Dolbegae is well-trusted by many readers as well as industry experts. Could you tell us about the specific direction and conviction the publisher has?

 

Kim

Because our company name has the word 'stone' in it, I think that gives others the impression that we're solid and honest. This is actually true, though. We deal with many themes like classic literature, history, people, cultural arts and education, but we always try to keep in mind their relevance to the times. This means we are always thinking about what books are needed now and what books readers want to read. I do believe we've come this far and enjoy the support and trust from our readers because we create books one by one, firmly and faithfully, by always trying to keep our books in line with our purpose.

 


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The 'Spaces and Margins' book cafe on the first floor of the Dolbegae building

 

KPIPA

As you said, when he look at Dolbegae's history and the books you've published, it seems the publisher has addressed all the key points in history, and that has in turn, played an important role in expanding the horizon of books on humanity. Could you talk a bit about thehistory Dolbegae has walked so far and books you would like to recommend?

 

Kim

We have many bestsellers and steadysellers like our most-sold Gu Kim's Baekbeom Ilji, books by Young-bok Shin and and Si-min Rhyu's My Korea's Modern History and What is Country and this only goes to show we have a vast range of authors. In the 2000s, the percentage of Korean authors' books we had published stood at 80 percent, reflecting our efforts to bring in good authors on humanities and society in South Korea.
When we look back on the history of Dolbegae, there were three major turning points. In the 1980s we made great efforts to contribute to South Korean society, for activism. As we are nearing 40 years in the business, we have many readers who have been with us for a long time. One of the reasons those readers began to trust us was a book on Tae-il Jeon, a workers' rights activist. The book told his life as a young laborer and his death and it affected Koreans in the 1970s and 1980s greatly. Personally, it is also the book of my life.

Korea’s Cultural History by Theme series

In the 1990s we moved our focus to cultural publishing. Culture was beginning to take off in South Korean society, and we felt books on culture were naturally needed. The Guide on Exploration Travel series of 15 books published over the course of a decade provides travel courses based on pieces of cultural heritage hidden throughout the country. In 2002, we launched the Korea's Cultural History by Theme series to really show South Korea's culture. As a result the series was awarded multiple times after our efforts to look at culturally representative things closely were recognized. This too, only served to gain readers' trust.

Recently, we've expanded our ground and are thinking of the joy in reading. We continue thinking about new authors, new books. There is a saying that a rolling stone does not collect moss. We are trying to shed our previous educational and hard image and aiming to publish books that are fresher by finding new authors and planning new books.

 

KPIPA

I don't think we can leave out the subject of cover art, which decides the image of a book. What do you focus on mostly for the cover art used by Dolbegae books?

 

Kim

With every book, the completion of the text should be high, but we also focus on the material-ness of the books. This means books are important in what they look like, in addition to the content inside. As a result we try to focus much of our efforts on book design as well.
We don't have a unified design format at Dolbegae, and rather focus on the characteristics of each book. Dolbegae strives for minimalistic designs that match the content of the books that are not overwhelming. Some people might find it bland, but sometimes we feature very bold designs that have generated much positive feedback. Not only do we try to be simplistic in design, but we also aim for this in our book titles as well and I am confident these show Dolbegae's uniqueness.

 

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KPIPA

Dolbegae will be 40 years old soon. What is the company's direction for the future and what kind of books would you like to see published going forward?

 

Kim

When we hold our planning meetings, we think most about what our society needs most, and what it sees as most important. Recently, our biggest focus is what kind of books readers like to read. In South Korea, the reading population is on a downward trend, so we contemplate deeply on the form and theme of our books that readers will want. Previously published books on history or philosophy are still important, but we are now searching for smaller themes that are closer to readers' lives and plan to publish books in the form of essays and non-fiction.
We are also expanding ways to approach readers. Our marketers currently use social media and portal websites aggressively to market our books. Dolbegae also thinks much on how to introduce books to more readers by utilizing small bookstores and regional bookstores.

 

KPIPA

Lastly could you introduce three books from Dolbegae?

 

Kim

I think this is the hardest question of the day. Our publisher has many books on Korean society and culture, and it's not easy thinking of books that could be easily shared with foreign readers.

 

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First, I'd like to introduce Young-bok Shin's Reflections from Prison. It's a collection of letters that were received and sent during Shin's 20-year prison term and overall it is a very broad, human essay. Of course, it is important to have good translation that can fully convey the book's meaning, but I would like to recommend it for its narrative and writing form most people will be able to relate to.
Next would be our The Classic series. It is a three-book collection that discusses 101 major works of classical music and the books decipher the music from a humanities point of view. I am sure it can serve as a guide to Western music to foreign readers who love classical music. This book has actually had some offers from Taiwan and China regarding copyright export.
Last is My Korea's Modern History by Si-min Rhyu, who is an intellectual representative of South Korea who has personally experienced the changes of South Korean history. In this book, he brings together Korean history with his life and shows readers what modern South Korea has come through. South Korea's novels, essays and picture books have been introduced often to foreign readers. If one was looking to export content on South Korea's history and culture, this would be one that could easily tell the modern history of the country.

 


link Dolbegae FaceBook : https://www.facebook.com/dolbegae

link Dolbegae Twitter : https://twitter.com/Dolbegae79

 

 


Arranged by Myung-im Nam

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