Now the government-funded body tasked with promoting Korean literature overseas says it is hoping to harness the success of Ms. Shin’s book in order to put the country’s literary output on the global map.
The Korea Literature Translation Institute says it has supported the publication of 463 titles in 28 languages since forming in 2001. Park Jee-won, a member of the institute's public relations team, says that after a short history they now want to see Korean literature form an integral part of the worldwide output.
“The time span of Korean literature being introduced overseas is comparatively short,” she explains. “Before the 2000s, Korea had to go through a series of political and historical events such as the Japanese invasion, the Korean war, industrialization and democratization and couldn’t find the time to take a notice of the international market stream.”
But Brother Anthony of Taize, a Seoul-based translator of Korean literature and professor emeritus in the English department at the city’s Sogang University, takes a somewhat dimmer view of the quality of Korean indigenous works that – up until now – have made it into foreign languages.
He says the country’s poetry posses merits of some depth but places its fictional prose output on a par with the literature of Thailand and the Philippines – “closer to soap opera,” he adds, arguing that the idea of the novel in Korea is essentially a post-Korean war phenomenon.