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Book Trend in Korea Eyed by
the Russian Publishing Market in the 2020s

 

2022.08.01

 

In 2021, Russia was designated as the target country of the “Visiting Korean Book Fair” hosted by the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA) for the first time in the fair’s history. Even though the fair was held online due to the pandemic, it was successful enough to draw an enthusiastic response from not only Russian publishers but also Korean participants. It served as a chance for both Korean and Russian publishing companies who have been paying great attention to Korean publications to take the exchange to the next level. Also, it worked as a cornerstone for Korean books to grow further in the Russian publishing market, as a greater variety of Korean books could be exported to the Russian publishing market after the fair.
The most distinguished image of Russia in the Korean publishing industry is the “country of literature.” In fact, most Russian publications imported to Korea tend to lean heavily on Russian literature from the 19th century, the golden age of literature, including the works of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. While it had been rare for Korean works to be published in Russia until several years ago, the volume has rapidly increased for the past 2-3 years. Therefore, this article touches upon the reason why Korean books are highlighted in the Russian publishing market in the 2020s and the trend of popular Korean books.

 

Korean books meet the Russian publishing market

 

Export performances of existing Korean books to the Russian publishing market

 

Korean books had been exported to Russia before the 2020s though the number was small. They were not led by the private sector – they were created as a policy measure of organizations such as LTI Korea and the Korean embassy in Russia. In other words, books with strong commerciality were not exported under direct contracts between private firms but were done as a public effort to promote Korean literature based on policy support of the government, including translation grants. The best examples were Sky, Wind, and Stars by poet Yoon Dong-Joo, Land by Pak Kyong-Ni, and The Descendants of Cain by Hwang Sun-Won.

 

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My Sweet city, Deokyeongju, and The Vegetarian

 

 

Of course, Korean blockbuster novels like My Sweet City (Munji Books) by Jeong Yi-Hyun and Deokyeongju (Dasan Books Co., Ltd.) by Kwon Bee-Young were exported to the Russian market at that time. And globally recognized literary works such as The Vegetarian (Changbi) by Han Kang made it into the Russian market as well. However, other genres than literature were seldom exported to Russia; people were only showing a gradually increasing interest in Korea and the Korean language, as could be seen in the rising export of educational materials.

 

What sparked the publication exchange between Korea and Russia?

 

The Russian market’s interest in Korean publications increased with the growing popularity of K-pop and K-dramas in the country. In particular, while the whole world came to a stop due to the pandemic, as Korean content became explosively popular on online platforms and OTT such as Netflix, the demand for Korean publications soared.
Another factor that served as the foundation for Korean publications to advance into the Russian market was the increased number of people who could review Korean, the language, thanks to the Korean Wave. Unlike how the export of Korean publications is limited due to the lack of people who can do reviews in most of the regions except East Asia or Southeast Asia, some publishing companies in Russia had members who could make good use of Korean, lowering the language barrier. This worked as an important factor in the expanded direct exchange between the two countries.

 

The recent export status of Korean books in the Russian publishing market

 

Adult fiction

 

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Seven Years of Darkness, Diary of a Murderer, Justice Man, and Dollergut Dream Department Store

 

 

Since 2020, the most actively exported Korean publications in Russia are fiction targeting adults. Korean literature had been steadily exported to Russia before then as well, but the characteristic of books exported in the 2020s is that they are largely popular literature such as thrillers, SF, romance, and webnovels rather than pure literature. In particular, AST Publishers, the largest publishing company in Russia, has been publishing Korean thrillers such as Seven Years of Darkness (EunHaeng NaMu Publishing) by Jeong You-Jeong, Diary of a Murderer (Bokbok Seoga) by Kim Young-Ha, and Justice Man (Namu Bench) by Do Seon-Woo. In addition, it has also been publishing best selling Korean novels such as Dollergut Dream Department Store (Sam & Parkers), attaching a “Hits of Korean Wave” mark on them.

 

Adult non-fiction

 

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BTS Marketing

 

 

The export volume of adult non-fiction is relatively smaller than fiction. Yet, people have begun to take a greater interest in Korean non-fiction as BTS Marketing (Book 21), exported in 2019 and published in October 2020, won the “Runner-Up of the Business Book of the Year Award in Russia” in 2021.
In detail, there are more requests for business books about Korea’s global enterprises such as Samsung and LG; and an increasing number of Russian people were observed to be interested in the parenting methods of Korean parents, making more inquiries at the “Visiting Korean Book Fair in Russia” in 2021.

 

Books about K-drama

 

Along with adult fiction, the genre that saw the biggest increase in exports was books about K-drama. Proving its popularity in Russia, original novels, as well as relevant books such as scripts and photobooks, have experienced a skyrocketing increase in export since 2021. As this leads to the demand for books about dramas produced in the past as well, let alone those about new dramas, we can easily see how the Russian market is interested in K-drama.

 

Young adult/children’s books

 

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Greek and Rome Mythology Series

 

 

Like non-fiction, children’s books are not usually exported on a large scale. Single-volume exports of children’s picture books were modestly carried out in early 2020. After that, however, children’s books began to grow in export volume, supported by educational comics series such as the Greek and Rome Mythology series (Owlbook).
Also, for adolescents, more export contracts are being signed, led by young adult fiction. As people are highly interested in the genre, it is expected to have a rosy future.

 

The “Visiting Korean Book Fair in Russia” held in 2021 served as a stepping stone for
Korean books to grow in the Russian publishing market.

 

As such, Korean books’ advancement into the Russian publishing market has been growing step by step since early 2020, and it expanded exponentially in late 2021. One notable thing is that exports have increased in number and diversity, showing a balanced growth across various fields. In particular, it is inspiring to see Korean books, which could hardly be published without governmental support, are published autonomously without subsidies led by the direct exchange in the private sector.
However, the stable-looking export performance of Korean books in Russia seems to be faltering due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict that has been taking place since early 2022. Yet, it is assumed that the reduced volume is temporary due to the conflict-driven difficulties in remittance or concerns of Korean copyright holders over the image of the Russian market, not due to the lessened interest in Korean books. Hence, even though the growth might stumble at the moment, we can look forward to the rebound of Korean books’ export potential in the Russian market once the conflict comes to a close.

 

 


Written by Shin Seo-Hee (Deputy general manager at Imprima Korea Agency)

 

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Shin Seo-Hee (Deputy general manager at Imprima Korea Agency)

#Russia#K-drama#K-pop#Korean content
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