Book Fair Hopes To Revive Korean Passion for Words In Many Tongues

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Book Fair Hopes To Revive Korean Passion for Words In Many Tongues

Korea embraced the printed word from its very birth. It was one of the first countries to develop metal type, as implicated in the controversial discovery of the "Jikji Simkyeong," which dates back to 1377 and is thus the oldest extant book in human printing history. In recent times, however, Korea's publishing industry has enjoyed a little less glory. Book sales plummeted when the country hit the economic crisis beginning late 1997, despite industry efforts to form a distinctive Korean book culture.

The Seoul International Book Fair 2001, which runs today though Wednesday at the COEX Center in southern Seoul, is trying to change that. Organized by the Korean Publishers' Association, the fair is an ambitious attempt to coax back readers and to encourage publishers to look overseas for promising books for the Korean market.

The domestic literature section will showcase a diverse selection ranging from comic books to religious publications. The Korean Magazine Association will display weekly and monthly publications relating to, among other things, business, academic research, computer science and "adult" material. The Korean Christian Publication Association will display all the religious works it has published in its 28-year history.

The event will also dedicate much space to foreign books. A booth will be provided for works from each of the five countries whose literary traditions have most influenced contemporary Korean literature - France, Germany, China, Japan and the United States. Members of the Asian-Pacific Publication Association will also be promoting the rich Southeast Asian literary culture. International organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank will contribute educational materials.

Special exhibitions will include "Korea Viewed Through Books," a display of English-language books on Korean tourism and cultural relics, and "North Korea Visited Through Books," which the monthly magazine Yanbian Literature helped to organize.

This year's book fair also highlights local publishers' growing attention to electronic books. Gimm-young Publishers Inc, which specializes in photo-based art books, will be one of several publishers showing off new samples of digital books. Local publishers who specialize in educational materials for children also present books in digital content. Though copyright issues surrounding royalties to authors and service providers remain unresolved, the accessibility of the e-book market appears to be attracting ever more readers and publishers.

For detailed information about the event, call 02-6002-8002 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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