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Export Cases of Language Books Developed in Korea

 

2021.02.08

 

 

 

It is not an exaggeration to say that most language books developed in Korea are focused on English education and that most of the exported books are English books for children and elementary schoolers. Language books made in Korea consist of multiple series and are categorized into different age groups and levels, not to mention the content and services provided alongside them. However, no matter how good the books are organized in the demanded style of overseas buyers and consumers, it is difficult for them to end up signing a sales contract.
Yet, there are still many cases where language materials made in Korea are exported to other countries. It is thanks to several distinct characteristics they have that they have such strong competitiveness. In the 1980s, there were not many language books solely made by Korean publishers, and in most cases, they imported or processed those of famous overseas publishers for sale in Korea. And it was an expected result that the imported books could not meet Koreans’ needs who learn English as their second language for the overseas books' difficulties or different curriculum.
Therefore, publishers and education companies in Korea have gotten down to developing language books and programs that best suit domestic learners’ taste and needs, especially for younger students. Taking the tide, from the early 2000s, language book publishers and education companies grew upon their independent development of language materials. The areas of those books expanded, too. From reference books for middle and high schoolers and books for college students and adults, more language-learning books for kids and elementary schoolers began to increase their share in the market.

 

Language books developed in Korea are being exported overseas with their unique competitiveness.

 

 

Phonics Series

Phonics Series

Phonics Series

Phonics Series

 

Literacy Series

Literacy Series

From my own experience, language books, especially English materials, have a competitive edge in the market for kids and elementary schoolers. I have exported the Phonics Series and the Literacy Series made by Bricks, a Korean publisher specialized in English education, to Tsinghua University Publishing in China. They were quite big series consisting of 8 and 36 volumes respectively.
When we were signing the contract, the Chinese publisher said that the curriculum of the two series was efficiently organized and that the content for each chapter was excellent. Also, they commented that the illustrations and content outperformed those made in the US and Europe, not to mention the good utilization of multimedia, which has raised learners’ satisfaction. And when in need, you could begin other series such as grammar or reading in sequence, proving the benefit of the abundant line-up of the series.

 

 

Series of Tuntun English

Series of Tuntun English

Series of Tuntun English

Series of Tuntun English

 

Second case. The copyright of series made by Tuntun English, a publisher specialized in English books for kids and elementary school students, has been exported to an education company in China. This Chinese education company is a large body that runs kindergarten franchises and has its affiliate kindergartens as the main customers. It is said that they had conducted research on products made in the US and other countries but could not find many options that had a three-year curriculum for kids. Also, in terms of quality and usage of the materials, they chose to buy the copyright of Korean language books. The products Tuntun English exported to China provide well-arranged teaching guides for kindergarten teachers that are even appropriate for non-English majors and are receiving good reviews from users as the illustrations and content are apt for global use. However, it is also a sad fact that the use of Tuntun English products in China is not like before due to the changes in the Chinese child education policy and the pandemic.
On top of language books, comics series for English learners have been exported to China as well. Unlike being sold per volume in bookstores in Korea, the comic series are available in a set of five volumes in China. English-learning comic series Gram Gram English Grammar Expedition and Gram Gram English Vocabulary Expedition published by Sapyoung Books in Korea teach English grammar and vocabulary in the style of cartoons, improving accessibility with entertaining elements. In particular, with a request from New Oriental Education, a local publisher in China, Sapyoung Books edited the series’ format to suit the local conditions. They are currently in their second phase of the contract with their fun and unique composition.

 

Gram Gram English Grammar Expedition

Gram Gram English Grammar Expedition

Gram Gram English Grammar Expedition

Gram Gram English Grammar Expedition series

 

Gram Gram English Vocabulary Expedition

Gram Gram English Vocabulary Expedition

Gram Gram English Vocabulary Expedition

Gram Gram English Vocabulary Expedition series

 

When exporting a language book, it could be one strategy to change the format and style reflecting the local preferences.

 

Based on such experiences, the characteristics of language books developed by Korean publishers can be narrowed down to six: 1) scientific design and curriculum, 2) completeness of the content, 3) quality illustrations and design backed by financial investment, 4) multiple channels using various learning tools (ex. multimedia, workbook, supplementary materials, evaluation system, education app., etc.), 5) easily accessible and convenient-to-use teacher’s guide, and 6) learning method easily recognizable in non-English speaking countries and satisfaction of local needs.
Regarding the export of language books, most titles come in a series rather than individual volumes and are categorized into different age groups and levels. Also, in many cases, the importer wants to have a program partnership for age groups that are yet less affected by school courses, such as preschoolers and elementary schoolers. A careful approach is required as the consumers tend to purchase strategic products of the company they are buying a program or series from.
Considering the six characteristics of Korea’s language books, it seems that they have the upper hand in the field compared to their counterparts from other countries. Yet, if it is hard to export the entire series developed at once, it would be an option to split and sell them in different courses.
In addition, the prerequisite for exports is preliminary research on the market as each region across the world has different preferences. For example, in China, they prefer using various multimedia, including interactive multimedia, applications, and evaluation systems. On the other hand, in India and Middle East regions, they prefer globalized illustrations and organization of the content. The price range has quite a significant influence that the use of multimedia may lack to an extent.
Recently, the publishing market in Korea is receiving inquiries from Southeast Asian countries about language materials (especially English). Introducing appropriate language books to the Southeast Asian region as materials for an after-school course might bring greater opportunities, whereas, in India, they are looking for books to be used in foreign schools. Meanwhile, it is tough to export an entire series at once from the beginning (for ELT materials in particular). In that case, it might be one of the options to sign a complete-product contract with the company and extend it to a copyright contract further in the future.
Also, if a direct introduction of books to local companies is difficult due to the cancelation or postponement of international book fairs driven by the pandemic, it would be an effective method to introduce them in the form of a simple video clip.

 

 

 


Written by Roh Tae-Soo (General Manager of Bookzone Agency)

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Roh Tae-Soo (General Manager of Bookzone Agency)

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