Korea’s Non-Fiction Books Building Global Competitiveness

2020.10.05

It is notable that the Korean Wave in the publishing industry began in the Northeast Asian and Southeast Asian publishing markets. And the major players that strongly supported the trend were novels and TV dramas <Winder Sonata>, <Gaeul Donghwa> and <Jewel in the Palace>. The wave then moved to the British and American markets, and the first field to penetrate those markets among the Korean publishing areas was literature. However, an interesting phenomenon can be easily witnessed today that recalls the past days - the publication of non-fiction books in the Asian publishing market is showing an upward curve. Now, while setting a specific strategy for non-fiction titles to enter the British, American, and European markets, aggressive sales efforts need to be made. Authors and titles that have the capacity to compete with others on the global stage have appeared in Korea. In fact, there are already good examples where Korean books and authors succeeded in the global market.

 

The publication of non-fiction books in the Asian publishing market is showing an upward curve.

 

The forefather of Korea’s self-development books recognized in the global publishing market is <Youth, It’s Painful (Sam & Parkers)> by professor Kim Nan-Do. Selling more than 2 million copies in Korea alone, its translation copyrights were sold to China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Netherlands, Italy, and Brazil. Professor Kim had been invited to countries such as Italy and Thailand by local publishers and had a busy schedule, including meet & greet events with readers. In Thailand, his book ranked first in sales when it was initially published, playing a significant role in opening the gateway for the export of Korea’s self-development books.

 

Portuguese covers of <Youth, It’s Painful>

Thai covers of <Youth, It’s Painful>

Portuguese and Thai covers of <Youth, It’s Painful>

 

Vietnamese cover of <You Must Be Shaken a Thousand Times to Become an Adult (OUA)> by Kim Nan-Do

Vietnamese cover of <You Must Be Shaken a Thousand Times to Become an Adult (OUA)> by Kim Nan-Do

 

Following <Youth, It’s Painful> was <The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World (Suo Books)> by Haemin Sunim. Hitting more than 3 million sales in Korea, its translation copyrights were found to have been sold to 26 countries, including the US and Britain. It became a bestseller after it was translated and published by Penguin USA in 2017. Magazine Elle commented that the book provides “Wise advice on how to reflect and slow down.” As a Korean non-fiction book, it’s got the potential and possibility to be recognized on the global stage. The book has begun to establish its own realm while being a hot issue among readers with its translated edition in many Asian countries before entering the US and British publishing markets.

* <K-Book Trends> Vol. 04 – Interview of Haemin Sunim

 

<US cover of <The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World>

US cover of <The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World>

 

The values of Korea’s non-fiction titles are highly recognized in the overseas publishing markets.

 

Another author to be spotlighted is Kim Su-Hyun. While building a firm fanbase at a fast pace in the Southeast Asian publishing market centering around Japan, her books are establishing their unique competitiveness and visions. After laying out a successful foundation with her book <I Decided to Live as Myself (Woods of Mind’s Books)>, news had it that her new title <Being Comfortable Without Effort (Noll)> put her in the ranks of the best authors in Korea. According to its publisher Dasan Books, <Being Comfortable Without Effort> by Kim Su-Hyun was exported to Japan for more than 200 million won of advance; this implies that the values of Korea’s non-fiction titles are highly recognized in the overseas publishing markets. Meanwhile, many Asian readers are paying attention to <I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki, Vol. 1, 2 (Heun)> by Baek Se-Hee, not to mention writer Lee Ki-Ju who has established a strong foothold as a million-bestseller author with his book <Temperature of Language (Malgulteo)>. His books that are being actively translated and exported to China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia and are expected to join the British, American, and European markets within the next few years.

* <K-Book Trends> Vol. 25 – Interview of writer Baek Se-Hee

 

<Thai cover of <Temperature of Language>

Thai cover of <Temperature of Language>

 

 


Written by Joseph Lee (President of KL Management)

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