[EDITORIALS]Crisis in readingTwenty lawmakers in the governing and opposition parties have decided to promote a bill that would provide income tax deductions of up to 1 million won ($1,020) annually to those who purchase books. They intend to lead the Korean people, who seldom read books, to become close to them.
It is sorrowful that Koreans are so distant toward books, so such measures should be taken. We are lavishing money on eating, drinking and dressing up, while being extremely stingy in purchasing books. Last year, an average Korean household spent slightly more than 10,000 won ($10.18) on books and newspapers per month. Considering that the average subscription for newspapers is 12,000 won per month, it seems that domestic households spent nearly no money on books. And it is also shameful that, among domestic households, the percentage of those subscribing to newspapers has declined to 40 percent.
In such a situation, it is natural that the publishing industry is suffering from a long-term slump. Most of the books that sell relatively well are study-aid books and books on the art of living. Books on humanities and education become best sellers once in a blue moon. Best-selling authors, who have million-seller records, now are thankful if their books sell 100,000 copies.
The biggest reason that we have become distant from books is the Internet. People think they don’t have to read books because the Internet is abundant in information. But we should remember that it is not television or the Internet but printed matter that makes our thoughts deep and wide.
The sluggish publishing market leads directly to a crisis in literature. It is difficult to make a living as a professional novelist and poet, so authors have to seek other jobs, and that deepens the sluggishness of the literary scene, creating a vicious circle.
These days, the hot topic in Korea’s literary world is “King and the Clown,” a movie that attracted the largest number of moviegoers in the history of Korean film. Experts said that the movie became such a great success because it had a well-structured and substantial narrative.
That was possible because it was based on a play “Yi” by Kim Tae-woong. Accordingly, behind pop culture, such as the “King and the Clown” and the “Korean wave,” there is literature and books. The weapons in the cultural war in the 21st century will be good information and wide knowledge. Books are the storage places of refined and correct information and knowledge.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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