Kim Seong-kon, who is a professor of English at Seoul National University and editor of the literary quarterly 21st Century Literature writes a bit about the obstacles Korean Literature faces overseas.
The article is titled, K-pop is not enough on its own,
Although Professor Kim completely ignores the success Kim Young-ha has had (admittedly, it pales before that of Shin Kyoung-sook, but must ALL Korean academics overlook Kim Young-ha? What did he ever do to them?^^), he makes some good points. For instance he notes the general unwillingness or inability of Western readers to tangle with foreign cultures:
Indeed, it is well known that English-speaking people, especially Americans, tend not to read books in translation. They seem to think: “Why bother to read translations when there are so many good books written in English already?”
I need to track down a statistic I read recently that claimed that while the general publication rate of translations in Western culture is about 3% (a fabled and perhaps apocrophyl number?), in the US this number drops to 1%. In any case, this reality means that translate books need to be chosen very carefully, to hit the small niche that is out there.
Kim also interviews Dennis Maloney, publisher of White Pine Press in New York, who comes up with some suggestions:
Maloney comes up with some ideas to promote Korean literature in the West. First, we need “a good directory with contact names of professors who teach Korean literature and a contact list of Korean community resources in this country (also Canada and England).” Second, we need “funds to advertise in appropriate periodicals.” Third, we need “funding to develop website links with such commercial sites as Korea link and other academic sites to advertise our Korean titles.”
This is only partly correct and I think it bears the marks of its author, a small press academic business. In fact, Korean literature should not be expanded through primarily academic approaches – this approach is what has failed us so far; the translation of a bunch of books by academic presses that are expensive, poorly advertised, not generally interesting, and languish in university libraries.
Where Maloney is dead on, is here:
Maloney asserts that foreign publishers need marketing funds from Korea: “We have suggested to the foundations in Korea that they provide some marketing funds in addition to the publication support so we can attempt to develop the audience for Korean literature.”
Because only money spent outside of Korea is going to be effective, for reasons that KTLIT has dealt with before.
Kim is also dead on when he notes:
Undoubtedly, pop culture is the best medium to attract foreigners’ attention.
Which is an understanding that seems to be more quickly dawning on Korean translation institutes.
LOL – also, this article gives me someone else to email about the Man Asian Prize.