Nothing gets the work done faster, or makes the word travel further, than having the might of the government behind it or the united action of a group of individuals with shared interests. In the Korean publishing industry, such synergy is evident and has been very effective. Two of the four major organizations working to disseminate Korean content, literature and culture inside and outside of the country are under the aegis of the government: KPIPA (Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea) and LTI Korea (Literature Translation Institute of Korea). The other two, KPA (Korean Publishers Association) and KEPA (Korea Electronic Publishing Association), count on the collective strength of their members to pursue their common goals and protect their interests as one entity.
Paving the way for more open discussions and exchanges, and improving networking between Korean and international publishers, has always been the objective of the 620-member KPA. At the coming London Book Fair, where Korea is the market focus, at least 27 publishers, 11 authors and four industry-related associations (including KPIPA and Korea Creative Content Agency) will join KPA to further this objective.
“At the Korea pavilion, the spotlight will be on both digital and traditional publishing. It will offer a varied selection of our best digital content and a close-up look at Korea’s relatively young but well-developed digital publishing industry,” says international project manager Eunjeong Kim, adding that special exhibits on authors as well as pre- and post-Korean War literature have also been planned. “Visitors will get to meet Sunmi Hwang, the Market Focus Author of the Day, and view rare photos and videos about the Korean Demilitarized Zone.”
In total, around 5,000 titles will be showcased at the 516-square-meter pavilion. More than 30 events, a mixture of professional and cultural, have been scheduled. Korea’s fast-growing digital publishing industry, for instance, will be the focus of a fascinating presentation that discusses the changing reading patterns in the mobile environment, lessons learned from the global e-book market, opportunities for publishers’ own app-based distribution channels, and technology for preventing device addiction in children. “Korean digital publishers will share a lot of insights and experience from dealing with the domestic market, which is the most wired nation on earth,” adds Kim.
Another event is “Toon Talk: Webtoons, a New Trend in Korean Digital Comics,” which highlights Korea’s unique webtoons in an interview with famed webtoon writer Taeho Yoon. “Events such as Toon Talk are an acknowledgment of the importance and popularity of Korean manhwa and webtoons around the world, and they afford visitors an insight into this particular genre,” says Kim. Other sessions, such as “Writing Literature After History,” “Illusions and Reality: Writing the Self,” “Writing Home: Migrant Literature,” “Adaptations: From Page to Screen” and “Korean Translation Slam,” serve to enhance the outside world’s understanding of Korean literature and culture.
Back home, KPA is busy organizing the five-day Seoul International Book Fair (www.sibf.or.kr), which celebrates its 20th anniversary on June 18 to coincide with the opening. Aside from raising awareness about the importance of reading among Koreans and promoting the Korean publishing industry to the world, the fair aims to facilitate the international book trade. Last year, over 25 countries, 610 exhibitors and 129,210 visitors attended the fair. More information about SIBF and KPA is found at www.kpa21.or.kr.
After K-pop, K-style and K-drama, the next hanllyu, or Korean wave, to sweep the world may be K-books. This is the goal that KPIPA is working toward. “We are nurturing new growth engines in the publishing industry in line with the digital era. The aim is to create a balance between print books and e-books in the publishing ecosystem,” says president Jaeho Lee, whose team runs an extensive Web site (ebookbaro.or.kr) offering services that include product marketing, sales statistics, copyright search and a database for products and solutions offered by Korean publishers.
High on KPIPA’s agenda is the promotion of reading. “Korea is not immune to the decline in reading and book sales. So the way to ensure the survival and growth of our publishing industry is to get people to read and continue reading. Creating an environment that encourages reading in school and integrating reading into everyday life is essential. Throughout the year, KPIPA holds book awards, online reading education programs, and reading campaigns (known as book concerts in Korea), as well as reading activities in institutions serving the underprivileged,” adds Lee, emphasizing the need to raise awareness of the value of books to create market demand and advance the industry within the country.
Next on the organization’s to-do list is creating and promoting quality content. “The goal is to elevate our product competitiveness and revitalize every stage of the publishing and delivery process, from creation, production and distribution to consumption.” Aside from conducting industry research and organizing seminars and forums on publishing-related processes, Lee and his team also support e-book translation for export and Korean digital companies’ participation in international book fairs. “We need to build an extensive infrastructure for the continuous development of the publishing industry in this digital age.”
KPIPA, an affiliated organization of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, spares no effort to nurture new talents who can take advantage of the emerging changes in the publishing business. “We support internship programs for small and medium-sized publishing houses that are aimed at preparing the next generation of professional publishers, editors, designers and translators to take Korean publishing to the global marketplace.”
The upcoming London Book Fair will see KPIPA hosting an e-publishing seminar with the CEOs of i-ePUB, iPortfolio, BookJam and Y Factory. Seven digital solutions companies, including Tabon Books, Orange Digit and Book & Book, will be exhibiting under KPIPA’s e-publishing stand. KPIPA will also have the Korean e-publishing stand at the BookExpo, Beijing and Frankfurt fairs this year, and a Digital Book Fair in Korea on November 6–8. More information can be found at www.kpipa.or.kr
Established in 1992, KEPA (kepa.or.kr) has been supporting the country’s e-content publishing activities through education, publishing support and certification programs. More than 500 people attend these programs annually.
“According to a report by the Korea Creative Content Agency, or KOCCA, the market for smart content was worth 1.94 tril lion won [approximately $1.82 billion] in 2012, and estimated to grow by 22% annually to reach 3.54 trillion won [$3.3 billion] by 2015,” says KEPA secretary general Kiyoung Chang. With more than 35 million smartphones and two million tablets in use in Korea, “distributors such as Kyobo, Yes24, SK Planet, Barobook, U Paper, Book Cube Networks and Ridibooks are flourishing, and will continue to see higher sales growth coming from e-books.”
That growth forecast has prompted large publishers, hitherto uninterested in e-content, to jump on the digital bandwagon. “The number of one-man e-book companies has also increased sharply. These two changes have caused a steep rise in the volume of e-content in the market. At the same time, with the government mandating the setting up of digital classrooms by 2015, we are seeing more e-textbooks being published. The launch of Google e-bookstore and an Amazon office in Korea is another milestone for our e-book industry,” adds Chang.
Competition has driven the birth of many local content players. Explains Chang, “In the operating system segment, there was no other way to compete with Apple or Google except to develop one’s own systems and content. Previously, there was Daum with Hanmail. Today, we have Naver in the portal/search engine market and Kakao in mobile content provision. Kakao, for instance, started PageStore to offer short stories with accompanying music and video. This is a great example of content strategy for the mobile era.”
Korean mobile platform developers are in a unique position, adds Chang. “Our society is an early adopter of smartphones, tablets and smartTVs, and massive amounts of content and apps have been produced to meet the demand. In fact, more than 1,500 pieces of smart content are created daily for use in areas such as gaming, reading, commuting, social networking, travel and banking.”
Given the fast-growing smart content industry, KEPA’s multifaceted role has expanded over the years. It also serves as an advisor to e-book start-ups, a testing center (equipped with mobile and e-reading devices all kinds from around the world) and an e-book support center (which gives advice on shifting from traditional to digital publishing). “KEPA also expanded with three new branches last year, and we will see another three or four this year,” says Chang.
Cultural translation is the focus of 13-year-old LTI Korea, whose mission is to communicate the unique essence and sophisticated flavors of Korean culture through translations. As president Seongkon Kim says, “Translation involves not only exchanges in spoken and written language but also transference achieved through other media forms, such as audio, visual and cultural content. Our role is to promulgate Korean culture and literature through highly selective translations.” In fact, February saw Kim signing an agreement with On-Book TV to collaboratively plan and create content based on Korean literature in different languages for overseas readers, and promote it through the 24-hour cable channel.
LTI Korea’s latest accomplishment is the collaboration with Dalkey Archive Press to publish the Library of Korean Literature, focusing on works by some major Korean authors. “Ten titles have been released since November, including Kwangsu Yi’s The Soil and Kiho Lee’s At Least We Can Apologize, and we plan to complete the whole 25-title series by the end of next year,” says associate director of translation and publication division Kyunghee Park, adding that promoting Korean literature overseas is the core LTI Korea activity. “For instance, we hold forums in major publishing and literary centers to foster communication and exchange between Korean writers, foreign publishers, agents and translators, and to discuss ways of integrating Korean literature into overseas markets. Six such forums were held last year in the U.S., France, Germany, Argentina, China and Japan.” The biennial Seoul International Writers’ Festival, set for the end of September and featuring 14 Korean and 14 international writers, is another LTI Korea program to foster closer collaboration and communication (siwf.klti.or.kr).
“We also facilitate the application for translation and publishing grants, training programs for literary translators, international translation and publishing workshops, and granting of fellowships to Korean literature scholars. Our Translation Academy, for instance, offers intensive courses in five languages—English, French, German, Spanish and Russian—with full financial support for a year. The goals of these activities vary from promoting the export of Korean literature to cultivating the next generation of translators for Korean literature,” adds Park.
Additionally, LTI Korea produces publications such as the quarterly List magazine, which help overseas agencies and publishers looking for new Korean works and authors, or seeking to understand the finer points of Korean literature and its latest trends. The winter 2013 issue’s focus on K-moms, for instance, turns the spotlight on mothers and motherhood with works such as Kyungsook Shin’s Please Look After Mother and Sunmi Hwang’s The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. More information on LTI Korea and its extensive programs, Korean literature exports and its author/title database can be found at www.klti.or.kr.