Confronting growing problems in the Korean literary landscape, such as a continuing decline in book reading, plagiarism and the unpopularity of novels, Hangilsa Publishing, a Korean publisher based in Paju, Gyeonngi Province, seeks to turn the tide with a new book from Norway.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary this year, the company has published the first volume of the Korean translation of autobiographical novel “My Struggle,” by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgard. Hangilsa is known for historical novels, such as “Roman Story” and “Chinese Story.”
The cover of “My Struggle” (Hangilsa)
“We not only hope to introduce this new book from Norway to Koreans, but also to introduce Norway’s literary world, a country where its people read about 17 books on average a year. Through this book, we hope Korean readers can enjoy reading novels again,” said Kim Eoun-ho, president of Hangilsa, at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.
“The company will seek to introduce more books from Northern Europe and other parts of the world Korean readers have not yet experienced.”
“My Struggle” was published in 2009, receiving rave reviews for its philosophical point of view on life and death. The author has now written six volumes of “My Struggle.”
Kim Min-woong, a Kyung Hee University humanities department professor, said, “This book is about life’s struggle, self-discovery and unlocking the secrets to life and happiness. It has the potential to touch Koreans who mostly lead a very busy life -- bored and meaningless.”
Kim Eoun-ho (right), Hangilsa president, and Kim Min-woong of Kyung Hee University introduce “My Struggle” by Karl Ove Knausgard at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (Hangilsa)
Kim has been working with the publisher and the author over the past two years to release “My Struggle” in Korea.
The book can help “raise and throw” questions at oneself and at society, Kim said, such as the meaning and value of life.
“It can help us philosophically explore our existence and take control of our life,” Kim said, adding that the hope is that the book would revive readers’ interest and trust in novels.
Koreans read about nine books a year, down from 12 in 2007, according to Statistics Korea and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism last year. Three in 10 do not read a book all year round. Those who said they read spend less than 6 minutes reading every day. In contrast, people watch TV for about two hours daily. Busy schedules and lack of time were cited as the main reasons for not reading.
Also, Kim noted that trust in Korean literature has fallen, following best-selling author Shin Kyung-sook’s plagiarism controversy last year.
Korean readers have recently been introduced to books from Northern Europe, with “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman, and “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson. Both are from Sweden.
Author Knausgard is expected to visit Korea as part of his Asian book tour in March. The second volume of “My Struggle” in Korean is expected to be published at the end of the year.
By Park Hyong-ki (firstname.lastname@example.org