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Korean Children, Young People’s Literature

Still, we grow up reading books

 

2020.04.06

 

한국의 어린이, 청소년 문학 일러스트

 

The translation publication rights of Almond (Changbi), a full-length novel written by Sohn Won-Pyung have been sold to 14 countries across the world including the Americas and Europe (the US, France, Italy, Spain, Greece), Asia (Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam), Mexico, and Israel. The thing we need to pay attention to next is the reaction of readers in English speaking countries. The book Almond is set to be published on May 5th in the US. After its publication in Japan in 2019, it has been receiving positive comments from the local readers, and its popularity is confirmed by its 3rd printing only in a short period of time. Categorized as Young Adult Literature, the book features a special coming-of-age story of a boy that cannot feel emotions. It is a best seller in Korea with 400 thousand copies sold between its publication in 2017 and March 2020. It is also a wake-up call for the “zero-sympathy” society where people became indifferent to other’s feelings, and it has been commented that the storyline in which the characters build relationships with one another and grow up is magnificent. Writer Sohn Won-Pyung won the 10th Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction.

 

Korean, Spanish, and Japanese covers of <Almond>

Korean, Spanish, and Japanese covers of Almond

 

The literary works of Hwang Sun-Mi have been translated and published in 29 countries until today including those published by Penguin Books in the US in 2013. One example is The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly (Sakyejul), described by some as the Korean version of Charlotte’s Web. More than 2 million copies were sold in Korea alone, and it made its way to the list of best sellers in 2014 in Britain which was a first for Korean literature. The interesting thing is that while the book was published as a children’s book in Korea, most of the western countries, including the US and Britain, targeted adult readers. This phenomenon can be understood that while having a unique and clear main idea like a fable, it features the universal life of humans and philosophical elements that enable more diverse age groups to enjoy the book. It was the first book written by a Korean author to be chosen as the “Book of the Year” for children’s books in Poland in 2012. Other works of writer Hwang Sun-Mi were exported too; steadily loved by local readers, The Dog Who Dared To Dream (Imaju Books) was translated and published in Europe and Asia, while Miracle on Cherry Hill (Sakyejul) did the same in Britain in July 2019.

 

<The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly>, <The Dog Who Dared To Dream>

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, The Dog Who Dared To Dream

 

Korean and British covers of <Miracle on Cherry Hill>

Korean and British covers of Miracle on Cherry Hill

 

One Day I Died (Baram Books) by Lee Kyung-Hye is also notable. This book was translated and published in various countries, including France, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The book has become one of the representative books of Korea’s Young Adult Literature with more than 300 thousand copies sold since its domestic publication in 2004. It entered the Thai market in 2019, and only in 3 months, it underwent a 3rd printing. The story begins as Yumi, a ninth-grader, gets to read the diary of Jaejun who died in a motorbike accident. Reading through the diary that begins with the sentence, “One day I died. What would be the meaning of my death?”, she recalls the good memories she had with him. Through the lens of an ordinary middle school student’s life filled with one-sided love, school grades, after school classes, and teachers, the realistic conflict and division of teenagers, families, and schools across the world are vividly described. This book is expected to reach more countries in the future and meet more readers.

 

Korean and Thai covers of <One Day I Died>

Korean and Thai covers of One Day I Died

 

 


Written by Joseph Lee (President of KL Management)

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Joseph Lee (President of KL Management)

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