Imprima Agency on the difficulties of Korean translation

Terry Kim, Imprima COO

Terry Kim

A very interesting article in the Korea Times about Imprima Agency (a leading literary agency in Korea), that begins by revealing the traditional Korean obsession about literature, particularly Korean literature overseas:

Koreans have long coveted the Nobel Prize in Literature as poet Ko Un has been nominated for it over the past few years. The hope has created a media frenzy in which journalists wait for the annual prize announcement in front of Ko’s house.

This is an accurate but unfortunate description, as the Nobel Prize possibility years are winding down for Ko, and at the moment the obsession with him (and the prize), seems to be narrowing the avenues for other Korean writers (I particularly think of Hwang Sun-won in this regard). I’ll be writing more about this for Yonhap News.

But the piece pivots from there to take a good, close look at what kinds of literature can be expected to be successful overseas (with the the now de riguer ‘tip-o-the-hat’ to PSY’s overseas success). Particularly, it suggests that overly national literature might fail because there is no context for it in the minds of overseas readers.

Korean bestsellers are stories inspired by nationalistic and historic subjects but when it comes to the overseas market, it is totally different.

There is a bit of celebratory back-slapping by Imprima, which rightly notes that it has been involved in the last three successful overseas translations, but in general a  good piece, suggesting that the COO of Imprima, Terry Kim, has a good idea of what the current problems are, and what needs to be done.

 

 

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