KLTI’s LIST Magazine, Summer 2011 – and KTLIT’s in it!

One of the cool things the Korea Literature Translation Institute does is put out a quarterly magazine called LIST. It’s aimed at overseas publishers and introduces them to Korean fiction that would be good translation/publication material.

It’s out this summer, and KTLIT is in it with Charles Montgomery’s Sometimes You Have to Laugh: The Lighter Side of Korean Fiction (there is an excerpt below).

It also features some work from one of the folks over at Subject, Object, Verb,  the story From Ashes and Red, by Pyun Hye-young.

Most interesting along the authorial line, however, is the inclusion of Park Min-gyu, for whom there seems to be some pressure building for translation. The Translator and I have done some translation of his work, which we’ll post here shortly. For now, you can read an interview here  (Link Rotted) or read a brief excerpt of Pavane for a Dead Princess here (Link Rotted).

Here’s an excerpt from my short piece on translated humor.

There is quite a bit of character-based humor in Korean literature. Often, that humor helps readers understand Korean cultural elements in the stories they read. There is a saying in English that, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” and it applies to these kinds of stories. Choe Chong-hui’s Chom-nye explores the difficulties of post-war peasants, and features a clever and rapacious shaman who uses the death of a bride to swindle the mourning family out of all the dead women’s goods and the families’ sole remaining chicken. There is also Chon Kwangyong’s brilliant Kapitan Ri, an excellent summary of the first 50 years of the 20th century in Korea, the main character of which is a highly amusing bad guy. When humor is fused into these meaningful stories, Korean literature becomes more easily accessible.


5 thoughts on “KLTI’s LIST Magazine, Summer 2011 – and KTLIT’s in it!

  1. Very, very interesting.

    I just saw the presentation in London by Kim Hye Sook; it was very affecting.

    I see that she has a memoir

    It strikes me that such a memoir, in English translation, would be viable commercially.

    Given the fact that memoirs of other similar events in English transation have been viable; I think that this one could be as well.

  2. Charles,

    Whut? I thought you were a DC person?

    Oh well..

    Yeah, memoirs won’t kick any doors down, but they can sneak in there rather quickish and get some eyes.

    For me, however, for a variety of reasons NK memoirs aren’t on the short list of interesting things.



  3. If the LIST magazine is aimed at overseas publishers, I hope that the ROK military does a better job of aiming than the KLTI.

    Consider this, very promising sounding article “What We’re Reading ” that is listed in the Bestsellers section.

    As a publisher, I am interested in knowing about books that actually sell.

    So, this sounds promising to me.

    It says “These totals are based on sales records from eight major bookstores and three online bookstores from February to April 2011, provided by the Korean Publishers Association. The books are introduced in no particular order. ”


    I want to know the order; I want to know how many actually sold.

    Telling me the reader that these books sold at least one copy but nothing more useful is bizarre.

    And then look at the books presented for foreign publishers:

    For example — “Why? Phonics 1” — which is described as “A comic book aimed at helping students learn English”


    How is a book aimed at teaching Koreans how to speak English useful to anyone else on Earth?

    Koreans have a language with unique linguistic.grammatical and phonic structures that are not likely to be useful to teaching, say, Brazilian kids how to speak English or anyone else

    Or the book “Pulbang Mom” which is descibed as “Based on the most popular episode of an MBC documentary series, this children’s book is about a single mom diagnosed with cancer who is raising her two children. In a graceful and moving style, the book portrays her last six months during which she ”

    This write-up has the virtue of being both incredibly obscure (what is MBC? — the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Corp) and yet simultaneously crafting an incomplete sentence.

    The one book that sounds perhaps promising in the adults section is:

    “A Very Ordinary Romance”

    which is described as:

    “Known for her ability to capture the feelings of love and desire of today’s women, Baek Young-ok throws in eight stories whose subjects include a clerk falling in love with receipts, a father falling ill due to his own breast cancer, and a cat falling for the main character’s lover. The common thread that ricochets through the stories is human desire and feelings that are rarely understood and yet clearly present at a deeper level.”


    In South Korea a romance is about a clerk falling in love with receipts? Really?

    In South Korea a romance is about a man getting cancer?

    In South Korea a romance is a cat falling in love with a human?

    To describe these as “feelings that are rarely understood” is an understatement.

    In the rest of the world, romantic feelings do not exist between a human and his receipts; it is not that these feelings are not understood; it is that they are non-existent.

    The feelings of love and desire that apparently today’s South Korean apparently women feel are nothing like the feelings of love and desire that all other women on the planet feel, it seems. A desire for receipts is not sellable fiction.

    Similarly, for example, consider the separate article by Jung Yeo-ul that starts with “Young Writers Examine Korean Society After the Democratization Movement”

    Does an overseas publisher know or care?

    The article includes such scintillating prose as “As a result, her novels accept the irony that they are using language to reject language, just as mankind is enslaved by mass media whose original intention was to aid communication. ”

    First of all, most overseas publishers ARE mass media, and I think for KLTI to gratuitously insult us is a strange tactic.

    But, setting that aside, the English itself of the magazine is turgid and at times quixotic.

    A novel that uses the conceit as a major theme that the novel uses language to reject language really does not sound like a novel that many would want to read.

    That is because normal humans do not reject language; indeed, anthropologists and biologists regard language as a major distinguiishing feature of humans that is key to human development.

    And certainly most publishers do not reject language.

    Whta is one to make of this “In her story “Death Fugue”” a beginning of a sentence with no end?

    Ah, perhaps it is that KLTI rejects language, and so frequently peppers its magazine with unintelligible prose?

    The fact that there are so many obvious signs of little or no editorial control for this magazine speaks volumes to any publisher.

    A foreign publisher draws the conclusion that if the premier flagship of Korean translation cannot even craft a useful magazine, what must it be like to work with them?

    Again, I would say, the KLTI should focus on what works — genre fiction!

    List out — with sales information — bestselling genre fiction!

    I can translate a genre fiction book and have a chance of recouping my costs.

    Every book listed in this quixotic magazine seems to be aimed at some audience other than its intended audience, actual publishers.

  4. I am a man of the world, but I was in London, though not as a permanent resident.

    I used a computer translation for your Korean script, but bear in mind that I am not a Korean speaker.

  5. LOL… baby steps.. baby steps.. I am also sometimes infuriated to see nonsense English in LIST, but the idea is a good one and now it’s all about getting performance right.

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