An Immodest Proposal based on new KLTI Director Kim Seong-kon’s suggestion: The Wikipedia Project

New Director of LTI Korea, Kim Seong-kon, makes an interesting point in the Korea Herald:

“Every Korean author should have something available to pop up when someone Googles their name in English. It makes a huge difference.”

This is not the current state of affairs, and it is something that could be dealt with rather quickly, if an institution would get behind the ‘webbing’ of Korean literature.

KTLIT has been doing its own Wikipedia Project for some time now, and last year, with the help of Dongguk University, put together a proposal for the creation of a more formal Wikipedia Project to ensure the adequate representation of Korean literature on the web.  Below, please find an edited version of that proposal, for suggestions and/or attack.^^ (I preemptively apologize that some of the formatting fell apart as this was ported from Word to WordPress!)


I) The Issue

It is a common understanding in international literary circles that Korean Literature is not as generally popularized as it should be in English-speaking countries. The Korean Literature Translation Institute (KLTI) and the Daesan Foundation, as well as other smaller
institutions, have ably translated Korean literature, but merely to produce translated works is not enough, instead Korea also needs to make the international community aware of the works of Korean literature and their authors.

One of the most efficient and quickest ways to extend such information is using the World Wide Web, particularly social media sites such as Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook and Google. The price of these publication venues is small, and the potential access created is vast.

GOOGLE > Wikipedia > ?????

Core US Search Trends

In the United States, the Google search engine is far and away the preeminent tool for research and popularization, with 63.5% of the market in 2009, a number that was growing as general search numbers increased. And in most cases (A search for the term “Korean Literature” included) the first result for a search query is from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the ultimate social media, essentially a blog managed by approximately 3-million contributors[1] and visited 23,679,652 times a day.[2] In addition, use of the Wikipedia skews to those who might naturally wish to explore Korean literature:

50% of those with at least a college degree consult the site, compared with 22% of those with a high school diploma. And 46% of those aged 18 and older who are current full- or part-time students have used Wikipedia, compared with 36% of the overall Internet population.[3]

Therefore, it is unfortunate to say the least that there is very little content available on Korean Literature when a Wikipedia search is conducted.  A general page for Korean Literature shows up, as well as a page for Korean novelists. Unfortunately, not only were these pages not linked (an issue that the KTLIT Wikipedia Project has already solved by creating a link from each page to the other) but currently 80% of the names on the Korean Novelist page were linked to non-existing author pages In addition, because the Korean Literature page is not adequately cited or sourced, it has a non-professional look (Please note the flags from Wikipedia at the top of the page; these indicate insufficient academic/professional content and presentation):

Not a great look

This is particularly unfortunate when compared to the look of pages for other literatures, including Japanese literature

Japanese Lit page

In addition, the page of Korean Novelists is not integrated into the general Korean literature page and most of the names on that page do not link to anywhere.

Again, contrast this to the Japanese Literature page, in which authors are integrated in the general literature page by era and each listed Japanese author’s link has their own complete page:

Nicely done

In essence, Korean literature is not adequately available on the English-speaking web.

The reason for this problem is multivariate, but one element of the problem seems clear: The English Wikipedia depends upon the existence of pre-existing English text to function. In many cases this does not exist for Korean authors, even translated ones, other than what may be found in blurbs on book covers.  The answer is obvious – this information needs to be ported from the Korean language to English.

Currently, the KTLIT Wikipedia Project is using LTI Korea’s excellent Korean Writers: The Novelists, Hollym’s Who’s Who in Korean Literature, and LTI Korea’s online database of Korean authors as well as its LIST Magazine as primary sources. In addition, we have contacted some publishers for information (Minumsa, for instance was extremely helpful in providing information on Shin Kyung-sook who did not have a Wikipedia page at all, even though her book was about to pushed as an international best seller!).

Obviously, however, this is not enough, and it seems clear (to me at least) that there needs to be an organized project (by which I mean more organized than I can handle alone) which sifts through Korean source material, translates it into English, and puts it on the web (Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter), so that it becomes accessible through Google / Bing / Naver
/ Daum searches for English-speaking searchers.

II An Approach?

I propose a multiple stage project to ensure that interested foreigners will be able to find Korean cultural content on the Internet. The first stage will populate the English-speaking web with Korean literature through Korean novelists. Succeeding stages will extend this effort to poets, novels, and general pages about literature.

There are currently nearly 100 Korean authors listed on Wikipedia. 80% of these authors have no Wikipedia pages. These, and any other Korean authors on Wikipedia, need to be listed.

A) Professors/Experts of Korean Literature will find relevant and accurate source material[4] and translate it into English. This work will be done with appropriate citation, as this is a requirement of the Wikipedia, for the sake of rigor.

B) Translators will translate this source information into English text.

C) This translated text will be edited and vetted for correct citation form and proper Wikipedia styles.

D) When articles are factually correct and stylistically appropriate, the articles will be formatted into Wikipedia standards and posted.

E) Prior and concurrently: development of a “final[5]” template for the Wikipedia pages[6].  This includes resolution of standards layout, navigation, and graphics (including identification of graphics that do not have associated copyright issues).

E) Integration of the “author pages” into the existing “Korean Literature” page and other pages as discovered.


If stage one is successful, the Wikipedia process described in this grant could be extended to other authors and poets.

1) Identify the next set of 100 authors (or begin with poets) to be put through stage one.

2) Move existing authors to an “ultimate” template (including the installation of graphics, sound files, etc.)

3) Monitoring – the Wikipedia is a plastic medium, and Wikipedia pages should be monitored for changes (There is a technical process within the Wikipedia which allows for notifications of edits, and an  agent will be assigned the task of following these potential edits).

4) Extension of these web-based efforts to Facebook and Twitter.

IV) Intended Results

The process described here can be repeated iteratively until all involved are satisfied with the amount and accessibility of information on Korean literature on the Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter. This process can then be repeated with Korean poets or any other Korean cultural properties (e.g, Korean food) that should be better represented on the web.

In fact, I’d hope that this proposal would not only increase international awareness of Korean literature and its authors and works, but will also provide a general model by which Korean agencies can increase knowledge (of areas identified through other processes) of its cultural properties.


[1] Whitney, Lance. Report:
Wikipedia losing volunteers. November 23, 2009

[2] Website Traffic

[3] Lee Rainie and Bill Tancer.
Wikipedia: When in Doubt, Multitudes Seek It Out. Pew Internet & American
Life Project.
PewResearchCenter Publications. 2007.

[4] This is particularly
important as preliminary research in English finds multiple and conflicting
information for Korean authors. Part of the point of this project is to ensure
that English speaking researchers find reliable information.

[5] With the caveat that the Wikipedia is user-editable, so no format is ever “final.”

[6] NOTE: Pages has two meanings here:


2 thoughts on “An Immodest Proposal based on new KLTI Director Kim Seong-kon’s suggestion: The Wikipedia Project

  1. I would agree, BUT with the important proviso that genre literature also be included.

    See, for example,

    There is no such listing for Korea,

    See for example:

    No such listing for Korea

    Just as literature has categories with more readers (genre literature), so too with Wiki entries.

    They should create entries on literature with many readers, as well as with literature with few readers, like Poetry:

    for which, oddly, there IS also an entry for Korea, at:

  2. This is an excellent idea, and Charles’ suggestion for extending it are on target.
    This should be undertaken in almost every subject, since quality
    information about Korea is difficult to find on popular web sites.

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