Gangnam style? K-Lit style! Korean literature's conquest of the world
The so-called "Korean wave" has now smitten nations all over the world. In this year, the Korean wave that includes pop idols, soap operas and movies is now forecasted to take an even a bigger leap forward thanks to the world-wide craze for 'Gangnam Style,' a song by Psy. At the same time, Korean literature is gaining world-wide attention, too, showing the potential for another form of the Korean wave to captivate the world.
Female writers at the forefront of Korean literature
The most popular Korean female writers are, undoubtedly, Gong Ji-young and Shin Kyung-sook. These energetic writers have also gotten their books translated and published abroad, greatly contributing to the promotion of Korean literature. <Please Look After Mom>, a novel by Shin Kyung-sook, was published in America and received many favorable reviews. Moreover, after fierce competition with "The Lake" by Yoshimoto Banana, Sin's book received the "Man Asian Literary Prize". It was the first time that both a woman and a Korean writer received the prize.
<The Crucible> by Gong Ji-young was also published in Japan. Moreover, as the movie <Silenced>, which was based on her novel, was released in Japan, the Korean wave has started to captivate Japanese readers. It is believed that as many as 10,000 copies of <The Crucible> have been sold so far. Given that previously a maximum of 2,000 to 4,000 copies of books written by professional Korean writers had been sold in Japan, the fact that sales of 10,000 copies have been recorded is very significant. The power of these female writers has indeed shown the potential of the current Korean wave to expand to include literature.
Talent that has been recognized for 10 consecutive years
The Nobel Prize that is awarded to the most talented people in different specialized fields is the most prestigious prize that any individual can receive. Every October, one Korean name is always listed- Korea's most representative poet, Ko Un. He has been on the list of nominees for the Nobel Prize for 10 years in a row including this year. Ko Un is famous for <Maninbo> which has been praised as one of the "biggest literary projects in the 20th century." Since his debut in literary circles in 1958, he has released over 150 books including poems, novels and literary criticism. The fact that he has constantly been listed for the Nobel Prize for 10 consecutive years is evidence that his talent is well recognized by the world.
Wole Soyinka, the first African writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, once said "What I am really certain about is that the committee of the Nobel Prize for Literature in Sweden is well aware of Korean literature." Indeed, led by Ko Un, a variety of Korean literary works have been actively translated in the last 10 years. Through publications of best-quality literary works, the standing of Korean literature has steadily grown and there is now widespread acknowledgement that Korean literature is a force to be reckoned with.
K-Lit, The literary map of Korean wave
In England, there is a newly coined word - "K-Lit"("Korea" plus "Literature"), clearly showing the strong interest of British readers in Korean literature. The craze for K-Lit is also taking hold in North and South America. <The Gray Man> by Choi In-hun and <A Distant and Beautiful Place> by Yang Gui-ja have been published in Argentina. In November, Han Gang and Kim Young-ha participated in the International Book Fair in Mexico. They held four Korean literature events including a lecture, public reading, discussion and meetings with authors at the book fair.
The Korean literature craze among foreign readers is not limited to a few genres. <Dragon Raja>, a fantasy novel which created a sensational impact in the Korean publishing field in the late 1990s, was a bestseller and became a big hit when it was published in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. What's more, Korean comic books are gaining in popularity in Europe and America, receiving as much love as Korean idol singers get these days. Recently, a few comic strips were published serially in Japanese comic magazines. Now, some comic book writers are going to Japan, the Mecca of comic books, and are confidently competing with Japanese writers.
Tasks assigned to Korean literature and its potential to succeed
Unfortunately, there has been no Korean winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature while Japanese writers have been honored twice. However, the reason why Korean writers haven't won the prize yet is not because the literary level was low but because foreign readers didn't know much about Korean literary works.
Murakami Haruki, a Japanese novelist who is often listed as a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature, was able to become a world-renowned writer thanks to the skillful and systematic management role played by his agency in constantly promoting his literary works over the past 20 years. In the end, a world-renowned writer is created by a good literary agency system. The future of Korean literature depends on how to discover unique literary works with interesting stories that have broad appeal and find a way to let the rest of the world know about them.
By looking at successful precedents, we can expect that a Korean novelist will win the Nobel Prize for Literature in the near future if a good translation is executed and the right marketing strategies are put in place. Indeed, the calibre of Korean literature is now increasing day by day. As the works of William Shakespeare and Saavedra Miguel de Cervantes are loved by every nation and each generation all over the world, I look forward to the day when the Korean literature is loved by 6 billion readers worldwide.
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