Looking to establish itself in the U.S. market, Korean publisher Dasan Books is setting up Joyful Stories Press, a U.S. children's imprint with plans to release a series of manga-style biographies of famous Americans, beginning with a biography of President Barack Obama. On April 21, Joyful Stories Press will release The Obama Story: The Boy with the Biggest Dream! written and illustrated by T.S. Lee, the first of the manga-style bios in Dasan's Great Hero series.

The Obama Story will launch with a 20,000-copy print run. The 200-page, full-color manga (called manhwa in Korea) is aimed at children 8—12 and follows Barack Obama's life from his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia through his Ivy League education and his election last year. Dasan has brought in an American editor to go over the translations and make adjustments to the text. Distribution is by Midpoint Trade Books.

Dasan is backing the publication of The ObamaStory with front table displays in Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million and Hastings and advertising in trade magazines and newspapers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The company also plans to market the titles aggressively to the school and library market.

The Obama book is one of 50 biographies the company plans to release over the next 18 months. Other books in the series will profile Charles Darwin (coming in July), Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton. Dasan Books is one of the top five publishers in Korea, and has set up an office in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., directed by Jaeo Woo, general manager of Dasan Books U.S.

While Woo acknowleged some concern about starting a new venture during the recession, he also said the Korean publisher sees an opportunity to offer the U.S. market something different. In a bad economy, Woo said, parents are concerned about education, and the Great Hero series will provide educational material, entertainment and role models that offer “strong motivation” for kids. “This is why we're publishing the Great Hero series in a cartoon format,” Woo said. “We can catch two rabbits—educational meaning and fun for kids.”