Improving Translation and Publication Success for Korean Literature: Part II – Social Media Reveals?

Yesterday I introduced this topic… today I include the section of the paper which assesses the impact of Korean literature by its impact in social media, including Google, Wikipedia (Hello? Wikipedia Project Anyone?). This was just a quick look at how well represented Korean Lit is in comparison to that of Japan.


Analysis of the existing environment has been done in the simplest possible way – using social media. Social media give an extremely reactive and accurate view of who is looking for what. In this case methodology was simple and outcomes were clear. Using relative responses to germane search terms, the study compares the general penetration of Korean and Japanese literatures. Three terms were considered in this aspect of the study are, “(Nation Name) Literature,” “(Nation Name) fiction,” and “(Nation Name) author.” This study used Google as its initial search tool. 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 (See Figure One).

Figure One: Core US Search Trends

A general search for “Korean Literature,” using Google, returned 119,000 results, while a search for “Japanese Literature” returned 720,000 results. When using the search terms for fiction, “Korean Fiction” returned 28500 results, while “Japanese Fiction” returned 91,500 results. Finally, a general search by author for “Korean Author” returned 31,700 results, while the search for “Japanese Author” returned 57,400. Statistically, for Google, this was the best relative result for Korea. In general the difference in numbers was vast, but as Google search results tend to lose relevance the farther along Google one clicks, this initial search seemed a bit imprecise as the “long tail” of these results might be composed of less useful results .

Google Results

To further narrow the scope of this research, the study moved to Wikipedia searches. Why Wikipedia? Because in most cases for Google searches (A search for the term “Korean Literature” included) the first result for a search query is from Wikipedia. Secondarily, Wikipedia is the ultimate social media, essentially a blog managed by approximately 3-million contributors (Whitney) and visited 23,679,652 times a day (Website Traffic Spy). 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. (Lee)

With respect to Wikipedia, results again were poor. A search for “Korean Literature” returned 3,678 results, while a parallel search for “Japanese Literature” returned 10, 695 results. A search for “Korean fiction” returned 2,590 results, while a search for “Japanese fiction” returned 10,695 results. Finally, a search for “Korean author” returned 13,945 results, while a search for “Japanese author returned 42,962 results. On Wikipedia, as on Google, various manifestations of Korean literature seem to be at a statistical disadvantage.

Wikipedia Results

The final rubric, Amazon rankings, revealed a similar disparity, though due to the focused nature of Amazon much smaller in absolute terms. A search for “Korean Literature” revealed 777 results as compared to 3,080 for “Japanese Literature.” “Korean Fiction” returned 1,397 responses while “Japanese Fiction” returned 3,995 responses. Finally, “Korean Author” unearthed 228 results while “Japanese Author” uncovered 963.

Amazon Results

With the web-based evidence quite clear that Korean literature was under-performing, the study next turned within the field of translated Korean literature to see what that might reveal about possible translation strategies and any implications they might have for translation results and further, what these implication might suggest about choices of Korean works to be translated.


NEXT TIME: We delve into what seems to create successful translations and what doesn’t