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Good year for Korean literature abroad

"Cursed Bunny” by Bora Chung (left) and “Love in the Big City” by Park Sang-young (LTI Korea)

Korean literature has achieved significant recognition on the global stage in 2022.

Translated literary works won or were nominated for prestigious literary awards outside of the country this year, with a total of four awards and nine nominations. They gained recognition in different genres including novels, poetry and graphic novels, according to the Literature Translation Institute of Korea on Wednesday.

Bora Chung’s “Cursed Bunny” and Park Sang-young’s “Love in the Big City” -- both translated by Anton Hur -- were shortlisted and longlisted, respectively, for the International Booker Prize. Following the nominations, the two authors' works are under translation in many languages. Applications for translation support for the two writers' works also doubled from last year, according to LTI Korea.

After Kim Hye-jin's “Concerning My Daughter” was nominated for the Emile Guimet Prize for Asian literature in France, her novel was published in several European countries including Germany, the UK, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Graphic novel “The Waiting” by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (left) and Japanese translation of “Counterattack at Thirty” by Sohn Won-pyung (LTI Korea)
Graphic novel “The Waiting” by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (left) and Japanese translation of “Counterattack at Thirty” by Sohn Won-pyung (LTI Korea)

In Japan, a Japanese-language version of “Counterattack at Thirty” by bestselling author Sohn Won-pyung won an annual award given by Japanese bookstores in the translated novel category in April. Sohn also received the award in 2020 for “Almond.”

Kim So-yeon's collection of poems, “One-letter Dictionary,” translated by Kang Shin-ja, won the grand prize for the Japanese translation award.

In the Czech Republic, a local translation of the graphic novel “Grass” by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim was named the best translated work at the country’s annual Muriel Award for best comic books. Her other work, “The Waiting,” was nominated for the prestigious Harvey Awards in the best international book category.

(From left) Lee Young-ju’s “Cold Candies,” Lee Soho's “Catcalling” and Lee Hye-mi’s “Unexpected Vanilla”
(From left) Lee Young-ju’s “Cold Candies,” Lee Soho's “Catcalling” and Lee Hye-mi’s “Unexpected Vanilla”

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, organized by the American Literary Translators Association to recognize the importance of Asian translations for international literature, was awarded to poet Lee Young-ju’s “Cold Candies” in October.

Poets Lee Soho’s “Catcalling” and Lee Hye-mi’s “Unexpected Vanilla” were nominated for the Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation and PEN America Literary Awards, respectively.

Korean literature published in translation overseas showed growing diversification of genres from science fiction to fantasy and mystery.

More than 150 works in 27 languages were published overseas with the support of the center, LTI Korea said. Works by established writers such as Jeong You-jeong, Kim Young-ha, Han Kang, Kim Ae-ran and Chang Kang-myoung -- as well as relatively new writers in the sci-fi and fantasy genres such as Kim Cho-yeop, Bae Myung-hoon and Lee Mi-ye -- were popular choices for translations, according to LTI Korea.

Also, there was a notable trend of Korean writers’ work being published overseas within one or two years. For example, Lee Mi-ye’s fantasy novel “Dollargut Dream Department Store” (2020) was translated into Russian in 2021; German, Turkish and Vietnamese in 2022.

Overseas publishers that have never published Korean literature are introducing works by Korean writers. The figure increased by 20 percent compared to the previous -- 64 publishers in 2022.



By Hwang Dong-hee (hwangdh@heraldcorp.com)
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