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With more than 12,000 registered publishers in Korea--and 300 very active ones--the task of selecting a representative group for this article was daunting, to say the least. This report is largely possible due to the efforts of Alice Moon, Eric Yang and Henry Shin of the Eric Yang agency, who came to our rescue by contacting major publishing houses, fixing up appointments, offering the use of their office for interviews and serving as interpreters when required.
BY AND LARGE, THE Korean book industry is doing relatively well, despite the sluggish economy. In general, it is still heavy on business, self-help, mind/body/spirit, children's and blockbuster fiction, with most publishers aggressively developing original titles to compensate for the shortage of big books from the U.S. or Et, rope. For many, the one-million-copy mark continues to be elusive and seems reserved only for those two youthful fellows, Harry and Frodo.
Here, we provide a snapshot of the industry by presenting a cross-section of publishers, in no particular order.
Started in 1979 as a "yuppie" publisher targeting business professionals and general readers, this is home to more bestsellers--more than 155 titles in the last 10 years--than any other publisher in town, effectively crowning its president, Eun-ju Park, the bestseller-maker. With 2002 sales hitting $18.5 million and double-digit growth since 1999, this is one publisher aiming to stay on top of the game.
"Business and self-improvement titles are our forte," says Park. The company has translated and sold more than one million copies of Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People since its launch in 1994. About half of Gimm-Young's catalogue is translations, mainly from the U.S. and the U.K., populated by a stable of big-name authors like business writers John Kotter, James Collins and George Soros, Carl Sagan, the Dalai Lama, Michael Crichton. Erich Set, al. Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King. Its latest bestseller is a German translation--Simplify Your Life--released last September and now 200,000 copies strong.
With some 30 staff--excluding those in its English-language teaching division--the company has also entered the edutainment and art-related segments. Its five-year-old division specializing in nonfiction young adult/children's titles (christened, simply, Junior Gimm-Young) boasts a catalogue of more than 150 titles. "Our bestseller is the 100-plus-title Aht! series [Scholastic/Hodder], which focuses on science, history, art, culture and literature for 9-15-year-olds," says foreign rights and international planning director Hee-kun Lim.
Gimm-Young is also working hard to popularize local authors. To date, its bestselling original works include The Complete Works of Koh Eun by the poet and Nobel Literature Prize nominee, Concerned that the lack of information on North Korea may further widen the gap between the two countries, Gimm-Young has also started to publish titles about the estranged North.
Publishing giant Kyowon, which has 2,500 regular staff, an army of 40,000 salespersons and more than 200 sales …