Local publisher Maven said Friday that Peterson’s book had sold over 105,000 copies since its release in late October, topping major online retailer Yes24’s sales chart last week.
The warm reception led Peterson to record a video of himself showing gratitude from Maui, Hawaii, where he said he was taking a break from his tour.
Describing himself as a “great admirer of South Korean culture” in the video, he hoped his book would “encourage people to make the world a better and less malevolent place.”
Peterson has been a professor of psychology at University of Toronto for 20 years. His previous book, published in 1999, was “Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.”
Sung Ki-hoon, chief editor at Maven, suspects a growing number of men who feel at a disadvantage is behind Peterson’s popularity. The author rose to fame as an ardent critic of left-wing identity politics.
“In my opinion, the fundamental reason (behind his popularity) is the fact that more men feel they are facing reverse discrimination compared to women,” Sung told The Korea Herald.
He added that Peterson has emerged as a figure of masculinity who presents himself as “intellectual” and “graceful.”
According to Maven’s sales figures, men in their late 20s and early 30s are the biggest buyers of the book, a stark contrast to the average readership demographic in Korea dominated by women.
Sung said Peterson’s fandom in Korea first gathered mostly via YouTube, where numerous videos of his lectures and TV appearances have been translated, before the book reached a wider audience.
One video, entitled “Former Harvard professor debating with feminist anchor” in Korean, is a translated version of his interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News. While the original video was viewed over 13.4 million times, the translated version has over 1.2 million views.
The comment sections for the videos in either language are full of criticism of journalist Cathy Newman, who interviewed Peterson, as well as feminism as a whole, with many containing derogatory language.
One top Korean comment reads, “There is a reason why the smarter you are, the faster you escape from feminism.”
On Twitter, tweets in Korean praising Peterson can be easily found. One post shows screenshots of an interview with Iceland’s Channel 2 where Peterson played down the impact of feminist movements on gender equality.
“I think the people who are pushing the idea that it was feminist political machinations that produced the equalization of the situation between men and women are mostly die-hard ideological feminists who like to think that way,” Peterson said in the interview.
Sung knew Peterson was a controversial figure before he decided to publish the book in Korea, as he said some publishers opted out given the controversy surrounding Peterson’s political views.
He explained it might be harder to separate Peterson’s political views from “12 Rules for Life,” but he decided to go forward, as the book “fills the void” in a way no other book has here.
By Yim Hyun-su (firstname.lastname@example.org)