The Korea Herald notes that Asia Publishers has just put out a 15-volume bilingual Korean literature series, titled Bi-lingual Edition Modern Korean Literature.
But it seems to feature all the usual suspects and previously translated works.
Really? This is getting past ridiculous. I suppose the defense will be that this volume is for “Korean Studies” courses, but how much impact does that have? This just seems like an epic waste of translation resources in a year in which exactly two novels have been translated from Korean to English (Kim Young-ha’s Black Flower and Cho Chongnae’s, How in Heaven’s Name?)
And look at the works mentioned (so far):
- Oh Jung-hee’s Chinatown (already translated in a novella by Jimoondang)
- Choe Yun’s The Last of Hanako (Multiply translated including a novella by Jimoondang)
- Jo Jung-rae’s The Land of the Vanished
- Yi Cheong-jun’s The Wounded (already translated in a novella by Jimoondang)
- Park Wan-suh’s Mother’s Stake 1 (Already published in the collection Sketch of the Fading Sun)
- Yang Kwi-ja’s The Poet of Wonmi-dong (A good story, but already published as part of the entire novel it is a piece of, A Distant and Beautiful Place)
- Kim Seung-ok’s Record of a Journey to Mujin (Already published in the, admittedly difficult to find, Home-Coming And Other Korean Short Stories, but also available FREE online at Korea Journal!)
- Gong Ji-young’s Human Decency (already translated in a novella by Jimoondang)
- Shin Kyung-sook’s The Place where the Harmonium Was (May have already been translated in the KLTI Anthology of Modern Korean Literature from Columbia University Press)
- Eun Hee-kyung’s Poor Man’s Wife
So, by my count, exactly two stories out of ten are new translations, and there is no telling if I have simply overlooked where those two might be found.
As I mentioned at the outset, this is intended to be for Korean Studies students:
The series will be sold in both Korea and the U.S., and will be used as class material for Korean studies courses at Harvard University, Columbia University and University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, Asia Publishers said.
But 80% of this stuff already exists, some of it available free, or in the $5 Jimoondang Series. And no one (my prediction, actually, is 5 people) outside of Korean Studies will ever purchase this collection. So much work by so many great translators and then it is jammed into a trunk and tossed overboard.
I’m just not sure what is accomplished by projects like this?