The Seoul International Book Fair 2011

Friday was a quick trip to the Seoul International Book Fair 2011. This would mark the third consecutive trip I’ve made to it, and it always presents me with some treats. In this case I saw many of the usual suspects. As I entered the hall (3,000 won for the price of admission) I immediately saw the Korea Foundation booth. This was kind of cool, cause they had copies of Koreana Magazine, in which I’m featured this month, and when I came back later in the day, the guy manning the booth actually recognized me from the magazine, which was kind of cool.

Korea Foundation Booth

Korea Foundation Booth

Then it was on the KLTI booth, which I definitely wanted to check out as I have been invited to have lunch with the KLTI President on Wednesday and it would seem unsporting, at least, to not go show my support. As I approached I notice the staffer was the same women with whom I had an epic conversation last year, and she also recognized me. The summer edition of LIST Magazine, which is sent to overseas publishers in a laudable effort to make them aware of as yet untranslated works, was not yet out. I have an article in that volume, so I asked when it would be coming out?  She reached under the table and pulled out a “sneak” copy of the magazine, so now I have that also.

KLTI Booth

KLTI Booth

KLTI had also brought a pretty fair selection of things they have translated in the last few years, in English and in other languages.

KLTI Books

Books!

Hollym and Minumsa Publishers were also there – I stopped by but the staff at each booth was utterly uncommunicative and seemed entirely absorbed in things other than working the conference. I purchased a book at the Hollym booth and discovered, to my amazement, that the staff member possessed good English (and was Korea, so I’m assuming had that as well^^), but she couldn’t be bothered to talk to customers. This reminded me of some foreign restaurants in Seoul, in which you could die of thirst before a waiter or waitress offers any.^^

Hollym and Minumsa Booths

Hollym and Minumsa Booths

The E-books zone was kind of cool. The conference had set out a variety of E-books (Although I’m not sure I saw a Kindle, which may have to do with crappy way Amazon deals with Kindle customers in Korea) and you could horse around on them to your hearts’ content.

EBOOKS zone

EBOOKS zone

P.E.N. was also there and I was glad to see that they were shilling their international conference this September, which I hope to figure out a way to attend.

There was also some goofy stuff.. a shrine to Shin Kyung-sook’s “Please Look After Mother” (어마를 부탁애) as well as a historical printing site which had a couple of those dioramas that Korean events just can’t seem to do without.

Various Things

Various Things

There was also some cool arty stuff – two rows of booths with book cover materials, cover art, premium binding, various craft papers, and pretty much anything you could think of related to a book that doesn’t relate at all to the words involved.^^ Back at the booth with the diorama, kids could make reversed ink prints of something like the tripikata (I didn’t look closely enough to tell)

Finally it was time to to the author presentations where I proudly sat front and center (and largely confused) during the first presentation and then through Kim In-sook’s presentation. Last year Stephen Epstein translated and MerwinAsia published a nifty volume “The Long Road,” which was set in Australia, but reminded me a bit of Choe In-ho’s “Deep Blue Night.”  There was a lottery for some free books, which Kim then signed, and I won one of them!  Like a complete idiot I had misplaced me translated version of “The Long Road,” but now I had an excuse to get in line and get an autograph. Kim was charming in person and for our brief discussion had good English, and I tossed in as much Korean as I could. We over-chatted, I think, for an autograph session, and I felt a bit of sympathy for the folks in line behind me.

Me and Kim In-sook

Me and Kim In-suk

With photos of Kim, and some biographical information, I think she’s next to go up on the Wikipedia.

I had to race back to the Uni for an event with freshmen who have just completed their first semester and then a dinner and 이차 with some of my graduate students, but it was a day well spent.

I should say that I was disappointed in how many people were at the event – it was pretty sparse, and that I spent very little time in the children’s books section, which was a destination to which Korean parents quickly buzzed with the utmost focus.^^

It was a great event, and if you’re in Seoul  next year, you could certainly spend 3 chun in many less productive ways.

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