게시물 상세

Export Case


Current Status and Prospects of
Korean Literature in Arab Countries




Participating in the 65th Seoul International Book Fair (SIBF) in June 2023, Sharjah showcased the literature, music, arts, and crafts of the United Arab Emirates through fascinating and extensive cultural programs, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the rich diversity of Arab culture. In particular, this year’s fair laid the groundwork for a more mature cultural understanding between the two countries through conferences and events where prominent authors, creators, and scholars from the UAE and Korean authors actively exchanged their ideas, experiences, and expertise.1 Korean readers have also shown interest in Arab literature, which was translated from Korean, throughout the fair. This raised expectations for how much Arabs will be interested in Korean literature showcased by Korea, the guest of honor, at the Sharjah International Book Fair scheduled to be held from November 1 to 12 this year.


Sharjah, a bridgehead for Korean literature’s expansion into Arab countries


“Arab” refers to a group of countries that use Arabic as their language and have Islam as their national religion, specifically the 22 countries2 (Syria is currently suspended from membership) of the League of Arab States3, which is a united organization of Arab countries founded in Cairo in 1945. The League of Arab States defines an “Arab” as a person whose language is Arabic, who lives in an Arabic-speaking country, and who is in sympathy with the aspirations of the Arabic-speaking peoples.
Sharjah is one of the seven emirates of the UAE. It is becoming a cultural hub following Abu Dhabi, the capital city, as well as Dubai, the economic hub. It has been hosting the Sharjah International Book Fair, referred to as the biggest book fair in the world, since 2014, and is operating the Sharjah Publishing City (SPC) to keep up to its sub-name of the “cultural capital of the UAE.” H. E. Sheikh Fahim Al Qusimi, the chairman of Sharjah’s Department of Government Relations (DGR), said in an interview during his visit to the SIBF by guest of honor invitation that Korea’s participation in the Sharjah International Book Fair is a chance to promote Korean literature to the heart of the Middle East, adding that it will be equivalent to interacting with millions of Arab readers at the center of the Middle East.4


Korea will attend this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair as the guest of honor
and will meet Arab readers.


The first publication of Korean literature in the Arab publishing market


Starting with the Best Korean Short Stories in 2005, Korean literary works began to be published in Arabic with support from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI). Until then, there was almost zero Korean literature that was translated into Arabic; even until 2004, excluding Chinese and Japanese there were only 10 titles of Korean literature in Asian languages: four in Malay, three in Vietnamese, two in Hindi, and one in Pakistani.5
Since then, a total of 19 works of Korean literature have been translated and published in Arabic by 2017, and details are as follows: one classical prose (Chunhyangjeon), seven poems (The Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry, Ten Thousand Lives, Abiding Places, A Journey to Seoul, Fugitive Dreams: Poems by Sowol Kim, Faraway Saint, and Life Within an Egg), and eleven novels. The Korea Arts and Culture Education Service (ARTE) supported the translation and publication of the book The Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry, and the Egyptian National Center for Translation supported the translation and publication of Chunhyangjeon and Ten Thousand Lives. The LTI helped the rest, while supporting the copyright contract of six titles, including Shin Kyung-Sook’s Please Look After Mom (Changbi), Lee Sang’s Nalgae, Chae Man-Sik’s Chisook, Kim Man-Joong’s The Nine Cloud Dream, Lee Hyo-Seok’s When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom, and Collection of Korean Stories that includes short stories by Choi Seo-Hae and Lee Ik-Sang.6


Korean literary works translated into Arabic with support from organizations, including the LTI, from 2005 to 2017

  Original Title Author Translator Arabic Title Year of Publication
1 Best Korean Short Stories Kim Dong-In and others Cho Hee-Sun/
Eimad Al Diyn Zahur
ﻭﺍﻟﺤﺐ ﺍﻟﺮﺍﺣﻞ ﻭﻗﺼﺺ ﺃﺧﺮﻯ ﻣﻦ ﺍﻷﺩﺏ ﺍﻟﻜﻮﺭﻱ 2005
2 The Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry Kim Sowol and others Kim Jong-Do ﻗﺼﺎﺋﺪ ﻣﻦ ﻛﻮﺭﻳﺎ ﺍﻟﺠﻨﻮﺑﻴﺔ 2006
3 Floating Weeds Han Su-San Lee Young-Tae/
Ibrahim Abdul Majidjawa
ﺍﻟﻌﺸﺐ ﺍﻟﻌﺎﺋﻢ 2006
4 Three Generations Yeom Sang-Sub Gong Ji-Hyeon/
Rasha Assaid Salich
ﺍﻵﺟﻴﺎﻝ ﺍﻟﺜﻼﺛﺔ 2006
5 The Sound of Thunder Kim Joo-Young Choi Jin-Young ﺻﻮﺕ ﺍﻟﺮﻋﺪ 2006
6 Chunhyangjeon Not known Lee Dong-Eun ﺗﺸﻮﻥ ﻫﻴﺎﻧﺞ: ﻣﻦ ﺍﻟﻘﺼﺺ ﺍﻟﺸﻌﺒﻲ ﺍﻟﻜﻮﺭﻱ 2007
7 Ten Thousand Lives Ko Eun Choi Jin-Young ﺃﻟﻒ ﺣﻴﺎﺓ ﻭﺣﻴﺎﺓ 2008
8 Abiding Places Ko Eun Kim Jong-Do/
Mahmoud Ahmad Abdul Ghaffar
ﺃﻣـﺎﻛـﻦ ﺧـﺎﻟـﺪﺓ 2011
9 Please Look After Mom Shin Kyung-Sook Afnan Muhammad Saeed al-Din ﺃﺭﺟﻮﻙ ﺍﻋﺘ ِ◌ﻦ ﺑﺄﻣﻲ 2011
10 Nalgae Lee Sang Neyera Nashaat ﺍﻷﺟﻨﺤﺔ 2011
11 Chisook Chae Man-Sik Neyera Nashaat ﻋﻤﻲ ﺍﻟﺒﺮﻯﺀ 2012
12 The Nine Cloud Dream Kim Man-Joong Walaa Maged Mohamed Kourashy ﺣﻠﻢ ﺍﻟﺴﺤﺎﺏ 2012
13 A Journey to Seoul Kim Kwang-Kyu Cho Hee-Sun/
Mahmoud Ahmad Abdul Ghaffar
ﺭﺣﻠﺔ ﺇﻟﻰ ﺳﻴﻮﻝ 2013
14 Fugitive Dreams: Poems by Sowol Kim Kim So-Wol Lee Dong-Eun/Salah Edris ﺩﻳﻮﺍﻥ ﻛﻴﻢ ﺳﻮ ﻭﺍﻝ 2013
15 When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom Lee Hyo-Seok Mohamed Hamdy ﻋﻨﺪﻣﺎ ﺗﺘﻔﺘﺢ ﺯﻫﻮﺭ ﺍﻟﺤﻨﻄﺔ ﺍﻟﺴﻮﺩﺍﺀ 2013


The number of titles translated into Arabic by the LTI has been increasing at a slow pace, but starting with one title in 2019, the number of titles supported by the organization increased to seven every year from 2020 to 2022, reaching a total of 31 titles as of today. The book Seven Years of Darkness (EunHaeng NaMu Publishing) by Jeong You-Jeong is the most recent book supported by the organization in 2022.7


The list of books that received grants for Korean-Arabic translation from the LTI

The list of books that received grants for Korean-Arabic translation from the LTI



What you need for a successful expansion into the Arab market


For a country’s literary work to advance into the Arab market, be it Korean literature or any other country’s literature in the world, it is imperative to understand Arab literature first from the perspective of cultural exchange. In terms of Korea, the Korean Wave (Hallyu) of K-dramas and K-pop has recently been powerful in the Arab region, which also boosted Arab people’s interest in Korean literature. For example, the book Please Look After Mom was translated into pivot language English and published in Arab in 2011, and it received a positive response from Arab readers. The Arab readers’ comments about how they felt about their mothers, mothers’ lives, families, the preciousness of their mothers and families, mothers’ sacrifice, sadness, heartfelt impression, and a sense of humanity, we can see that they feel the same way about Korean novels translated into Arabic as much as we feel about them. Since such a case proved that the content’s sentiment and storyline can resonate with Arab readers, it would be a nice timing to accelerate quality Korean literature’s export into the Arab market.
Yet, reflecting on my experience of the Sharjah International Book Fair in 2022, I would like to offer the following advice to those who plan to advance into the Arab market: Understand the Arabs’ religion and customs before introducing your book. For example, I suggest that you refrain from introducing books about LGBT, which has been a hot topic not only in Korea but also across the world, as well as those that describe such a topic. Also, keep in mind that Arab cultures are conservative about skin exposure when it comes to designing the book’s cover or adding illustrations to your book. In the field of non-literary books for children and young adults, Arab countries seem to be interested in translations of books that are easy to understand, as boosted by technological advancements in Korea. When it comes to adult books, Arab readers were found to be interested in a wide range of genres, including Korean history, non-fiction, economics, business, and humanities.


Understanding Arab culture is a prerequisite to successfully entering the Arab market.


Plus, translation is equally important for various Korean publications to be introduced to the Arab market in the future. As a part of the effort, the 1st Korean-Arab Picture Book Translation Contest was held in 2022. A total of 256 university students from four countries – Korea, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan – participated in this contest, where Arabic students in Korea and Korean students in the Arab world translated Korean picture books into Arabic. They demonstrated their capabilities in the arena of language and cultural exchange and mutual understanding through picture books, and a total of 20 winners were selected.8 Through these events, I hope that more translators will be trained and produced to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries and to actively translate and publish books.
Last but not least, the effective introduction of Korean literature to the Arabic publishing market requires book curation that meets the diverse literary needs of Arabs. Just as it is still difficult to find Arabic-language curation in Korean online bookstores, it is also expected that the same will be true in local Arab bookstores. If Korean literature, which is part of thousands of foreign language books, can be more effectively “discovered” by Arabs, it will lead to more Korean literary works being translated into and published in Arabic.



Sharjah Opens a New Arena of Cultural Exchange Between Arab and East Asia Through the Seoul International Book Fair, News Wire, June 20, 2023,
Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia, Djibouti, Republic of Comoros, and Syria (suspended from membership as of November 12, 2011)
“Cooperation with Sharjah Will Lead to Greater Exchange with the Entire Arab Region” Says Chairman Qusimi, During His Visit to Korea, Culture & People, Newsis, Journalist Shin Jae-Woo, June 15, 2023,
Webzine by the Daesan Foundation, Current Status of Korean Literature Introduced to Overseas Markets: Almost Zero Korean Literature Introduced in an Asian Language and Translated into Arabic – Efforts to Join the Hallyu Wave and Boost Exchange are Needed, Kwak Hyo-Hwan, August 20, 2023,
Kwak Soon-Rye, Reflections and Challenges on the Current Status of Arabic Literature’s Translation into Korean and Korean Literature’s Translation into Arabic, Translation Studies, 19(4), 7-43, 2018
The list of Korean books translated into Arabic, supported by the LTI
Picture Books as a Medium for Communication... The Online Award Ceremony for the 1st Korean-Arab Picture Book Translation Contest, The Asia Business Daily, Journalist Hwang Du-Yeol, August 29, 2022,



Written by Beatrice YongIn Lin (Managing director of Co.Mint INC.)



Beatrice YongIn Lin (Managing director of Co.Mint INC.)

#Arab#Arab Emirates#Sharjah#Sharjah International Book Fair
If you liked this article, share it with others. 페이스북트위터블로그인쇄

Pre Megazine