Translated Korean books gaining momentum with global readers

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Translated Korean books gaining momentum with global readers

Covers of Korean novels translated into different languages [LITERATURE TRANSLATION INSTITUTE OF KOREA]

Covers of Korean novels translated into different languages [LITERATURE TRANSLATION INSTITUTE OF KOREA]

While musicians like Psy and BTS have helped international audiences open their ears to Korean music and directors Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook are taking up more space in the global film industry, Korean literature is aiming to make its mark on foreign readers. 
 
And in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic there is no better time to get comfortable with a book from an award-winning Korean author and get acquainted with all Korea's literary world has to offer.  
 
Korean writer Yun Ko-eun of “The Disaster Tourist” won this year’s CWA Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger on July 1.   
 
“The Disaster Tourist” is a good book to start your journey into Korean literature, offering readers a chance to live vicariously through the protagonist that takes an overseas trip. The character Yona Ko, who works for a travel agency called Jungle, chooses to go to Vietnam to check on one of the travel programs that takes people to sites that have previously been the locations of a disaster. While the book is a thriller and you may not want to be Ko by the end, the book will have you hearkening back on your own travels in an unfamiliar city.
 
In the past 10 years, almost two dozen Korean authors have been honored at global literary awards, according to Literature Translation Institute of Korea. Last year, six books earned awards, the largest number Korea has seen in one year.  
 
While international readers can use these stories to learn more about Korean culture, some locals can use the translated works as a tool to study foreign languages. 
 
Author Kim Young-ha’s “Diary of a Murderer,” which won the 2020 German Prize for Crime Fiction, is particularly popular after being made into a movie in 2016. It means locals can see how colloquial terms are translated and both foreigners and Koreans can enjoy watching a movie adaptation of the book. 
 
For those interested in practicing their Japanese with an award-winning novel, read “Almond” by Sohn Won-pyung. It won the 2020 Japanese Booksellers’ Awards in the category of translated fiction novel. For those looking for something in French, check out writer Hwang Sok-yong's "At Dusk," winner of the Emile Guimet Prize for Asian literature.
 
If what you are looking for is newly translated and published book, look for Kaya Press’s “On the Origin of Species and Other Stories” by sci-fi writer Kim Bo-young. It is Kim’s debut novel in English and centers on how humans and non-humans strive to survive through evolution — biologically, technologically and socially. It is one of the most recent suggestions by Tongbang Books, which regularly introduces newly published English-language books in Korea. The author previously served as a consultant on director Bong’s film “Snowpiercer.”
 
If you want to borrow Korean novels that have been translated, head to the Literature Translation Institute of Korea in Samseong-dong which has a small library. Different from other public libraries, it focuses on introducing Korean novels that have been translated into many different languages besides English. It is possible to enjoy the books in the library or check them out to take home and enjoy. It is also possible to download e-books on the digital library run by the institute. For more information about how to use the online and offline libraries, go to library.ltikorea.or.kr.
 

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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