Professor Kim Seong-kon: KLTI and International Vision
Photo by Ahn Hoon
I'd already heard about this, but I see from Claire Lee's Korea Herald article, "KLTI reaches out to global literary market" (February 9, 2012), that it's now officially public, and I take the fact that Professor Kim Seong-kon has been selected the new head of the Korea Literature Translation Institute as good news because he's a man of vision who understands what Korea needs to do if the country wants to promote its literature abroad:
"We can't just translate works of Korean literature and publish them overseas -- getting reviews from foreign critics and scholars is also extremely important . . . . If they are reviewed by a foreign scholar who majors in Korean Studies, it's likely that the book will be selected as a course material in Korean Studies programs at overseas universities. And there's no better way of promoting the books than getting them reviewed by overseas reporters and critics."Professor Kim is making two points here. Reviews need to be solicited overseas from both scholars and reporters, the former for academic programs and the latter for a popular market. A prerequisite to this is easier access for foreigners to Korean writers:
Kim also stressed the importance of aggressive marketing to promote Korean literature overseas. He pointed out that not enough information on Korean literature is available in English online.Good idea, so long as the website designers don't take the expression "pop up" literally -- most Westerners hate pop-ups, which clutter up the computer desk top. There's also the issue of funding for an expanded KLTI:
In its foray into being "foreigner-friendly," KLTI is currently creating a list of contact information of local publishing houses' translation rights departments. The institute plans to have it available on its website once the list is completed.
"We get a lot of inquires from overseas that they don't know where to contact when trying to reach Korean publishers . . . . Every Korean author should have something available to pop up when someone Googles their name in English. It makes a huge difference."
Asked if there was anything he'd like to see happen, Kim brought up the budget the institute received from the Culture Ministry this year. According to the ministry, KLTI received about 6.9 billion won.I hope they get that support, of course, since my wife and I are involved in translation projects from time to time, depending on the funding. Anyway, Professor Kim is a good choice, in my opinion. I have some contact with the man, having met him at a literary awards ceremony two years ago, and I keep in occasional touch by email. He also writes a weekly column every Wednesday for the Korea Herald, and it's always interesting, even when he's not talking about literature, for he reveals broad interests and a wide-ranging curiosity.
"The minister has told me to develop this institution as 'the center of Korean literature and culture' . . . . But we certainly need more support in order to do that."
For those interested in knowing more, see the article.