Siiiiiiigh! Seoul’s own “What the Book” turns its back on used Korean literature

WTF? Used to be several more rows, and packed at that!

WTF? Used to be several more rows, and packed at that!

This is kind of sad… shopping at What the Book  (the most well-known new and used English bookstore in Korea) with my friend from the 10 Magazine book club an he notes that the number of NEW Korean titles (fiction that is) has shrunk dramatically.

I go over to the used section and the same story is true, it is so patchy that books are being presented full-cover (not by spine) and even then you can see through to the back of some of the shelves…. Not to mention that five rows have been reduced to a paltry three, and are primarily books about China and Japan.

Why is this?

Because WTB has a new policy (Added note: WTB says these policies have been in place for years, but clearly they are only now being completely enforced, as my library of books bought from WTB amply demonstrates)  for buying used books that pretty much excludes any decent work of translated Korean fiction.


What the Book, WTF?

1) No Korean publishers.…. POW! There goes at least half of all Korean translated literature.

2) No library books … POW! There goes all the academic translations that were originally intended for libraries or used in USAF libraries overseas (particularly here in Korea)

3) ISBN numbers much match… POW, there goes anything published without and ISBN number (a surprisingly large number of early publications and self-publications).

You really couldn’t devise a cleverer plan to drive Korean translations out of What the Book (additional note – the implication here being IF you tried, not that WTB did), or as I shall now refer to it, WTF?

6 thoughts on “Siiiiiiigh! Seoul’s own “What the Book” turns its back on used Korean literature

  1. Those trade in rules have been in place for the better part of ten years. It has never been an attack on Korean literature-you are the first to come up with that one. Old library books, we have been accused of stealing them and being corrupt for selling them. Korean publishers refuse to work with us on profit margin (nearly zero).

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for your response. I’m on my evil IPhone so will be brief^^

    I didn’t mean to attack, it’s just that this policy has de facto gutted that section.

    The policies may have been in place since dirt was invented, but these books have previously regularly been in stock – as dozens of them (the Jimoondang books, for instance) are sitting in my office, and I got them from WTB.

    I’m sure these policies make aggregate (read: “business”) sense, but they’ve gutted that section. Amazon and The Foreign Bookstore help fill in the gap for used books and, to he honest I don’t worry much about the new ones.^^

    It’s just sad, if only for me personally.

  3. Hmm.. a couple of things don’t make sense here. 1) If they haven’t been accepting books published in Korea for “the better part of ten years” as Chris says, then why did they accept some of mine when I left Korea a few years ago? 2) Chris also says “Korean publishers refuse to work with us on profit margin (nearly zero).” I’m assuming that only applies to New books, so then why boycott Used books as well? Seems a bit much.
    Lastly, could this not possibly be seen in a positive light? By that I mean, maybe the shelves were a bit empty because K-Lit is getting more popular (due to sites such as your own, Charles) and therefore, more people have been buying the books (and perhaps not trying to sell them as much) lately?

  4. And no more textbooks I noticed too…was a go-to for decent priced Korean textbooks but that section is next to nothing now, and there’s no easy way to keep your books useful for someone when you’re done with them now too. Such a waste. 🙁

  5. LOL… closing comments now, so this doesn’t turn into KTLIT “Dave’s ESLing” (a compoundish verb meaning to violently attack just for the hell of it) What the Book, a bookstore I am actually rather fond of..^^

Comments are closed.