The first presentation was by Marzena Stefanska (Co-founder of Kwiaty Orientu – “Flowers of the Orient) , who discussed the situation of Korean literature in Poland and the world. Marzena put her finger directly on some of the issues that are hindering the spread of Korean literature, and she noted that these issues are preventing Korean literature from riding the back of Hallyu to success. She noted the fact that most publishers are small and educational and negotiating copyright with Korean authors is difficult.
Marzena made particular note of something utterly astounding, that the Korean Cultural Center in Poland does NOT support Korean literature. In a conversation the day before she had explained this to me – A translated children’s book had won best book of the year in Poland (remarkable!), but when Kwiaty Orientu came to the Korean Cultural Center in Poland, they flatly refused to offer space to the event, even though KO would completely organize the event.
The money quote:
How is Korean literature going to be famous if Korean embassies don’t care about it? Korean Culture Centers are more interested in Gangnam Style than Please Look After Mom. How do you expect people to read books if you, Korean people, don’t show your passion about it?
The next speaker was Richard Klicnik (that last name is difficult to type!), the PR manager of Argo Publishing, who hit some of the same points, particularly honing in on how difficult it is for Czech publishers to find rights owners or representing agencies. He also presented an interesting excerpt from an article which outlined the historical difficulties the Czech Republic had undergone when considering and attempting to translate Korean literature, including one I hadn’t even considered, that the political situation in late 20th century Czechoslovakia meant that translating South Korean literature dangerous, since it was a literature of division and (hoped for) unification.
He also talked about the use of social media to promote literature in social media, including a relatively novel (yeah, I went there) approach of letting the audience choose book covers before the books get printed, to stir up interest AND to create a cover that is guaranteed to be successful. They also have a youtube channel in which they do short promotional films.
All in all an excellent panel – Props to LTI Korea for putting this together.