The Korea Herald


Four notable Korean authors to be published in foreign languages this year

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : March 30, 2020 - 15:03

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Author Han Kang (Changbi) Author Han Kang (Changbi)

From Korean TV dramas and K-pop to the nation’s cinematic output, Korean content has taken the world by storm. This year, it may be Korean novels’ turn to engage global readers.

According to the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, a state-run institute that promotes Korean literature abroad, at least 91 Korean books are being published in 19 countries this year.

“There might be more books that will be published overseas, this is the number that we have for now,” Literature Translation Institute of Korea official Yoo Young-seon told The Korea Herald.

“It may change depending on our budget, but around 120 books are being published overseas annually,” Yoo added.

According to the list provided by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, books translated into English make up the bulk of the books to be published overseas. A total of 17 books will be translated into English, followed by 15 and 11 that will be published in Japanese and French, respectively.

The following is a brief look at four noteworthy authors and their works that will be published overseas this year.

Han Kang

Born in 1970, Han Kang is globally known for “The Vegetarian,” which won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. The book has been translated into over 20 languages, including English, French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.

“The Vegetarian” was also published in Greek in March. “The Vegetarian” begins the story with Yeong-hye, a homemaker who decides to become vegetarian after a series of dreams involving images of animal slaughter. The book elaborates on how this decision leads her to become distanced from her husband, family and society.

Two other books by the author translated into five languages and will be published abroad this year.

“The White Book,” originally published in 2016, will be translated to German, Spanish and Catalan. The book consists of 65 short pieces that draw from autobiographical elements written in a prose style somewhere between essay and poem. The work talks of “all things white that cannot be sullied.”

Han Kang’s other major novel “Human Acts,” which tells the story of a young boy named Dong-ho who is killed in the military’s bloody crackdown on the Gwangju Democratic Uprising of May 1980, has been translated to Russian and Arabic. The book in Russian came out earlier this month, while the Arabic translation will be published in Lebanon in May. “Human Acts” won the 2017 Malaparte Prize, an Italian literary award.

Author Kim Un-su (Yonhap) Author Kim Un-su (Yonhap)

Kim Un-su

Born in 1972, Kim Un-su became popular for his 2010 thriller “The Plotters.”
Kim broke into the international literary scene in 2016 when “The Plotters” was published in French and subsequently shortlisted for the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere -- the most prestigious award for crime and detective fiction in France.

“The Plotters” is set to be published in two more countries -- Taiwan and Spain -- this year.

The story follows the boy Reseng, who is raised as an assassin by Old Raccoon, the leader of the ring of killers “Library of Dogs.” It develops as the library is pushed out of the “plotting” business by a new assassination force led by Hanja, a former member of the Library of Dogs.

His other thriller, “Hot Blood,” was published in France in January.

The novel is about people who inhabit the underworld, including prostitutes, thugs and loan sharks, in Kim’s hometown Busan.

It was first published in Korea in 2016 and is being made into a film set to be released here this year. 

Author Seo Mi-ae (Barbara J. Zitwer Agency) Author Seo Mi-ae (Barbara J. Zitwer Agency)

Seo Mi-ae

Born in 1965, Seo Mi-ae is also a bestselling Korean thriller writer. She has several hit novels, including “The Doll’s Garden,” “Arin’s Gaze” and “The Night Your Star Disappeared.”

“The Only Child,” Seo’s first work available in English, was released in February. The book was also published in French and Spanish in March.

“The Only Child” starts with two strangers entering the life of the protagonist, criminal psychologist Sun-kyung. Lee Byung-do, a serial killer who has been refusing all interviews, suddenly asks to meet with Sun-kyung. Meanwhile, another stranger, Ha-young also appears in Sun-kung‘s life. Ha-young is her husband‘s 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The little girl lost her grandparents, with whom she had been living after her mother passed away in a fire. 

Author Sohn Won-pyung (Changbi) Author Sohn Won-pyung (Changbi)

Sohn Won-pyung

Born in 1979, Sohn Won-pyung is a talented screenwriter and movie director, as well as an author. She wrote and directed a number of short films, including “Ooh You Make Me Sick” and “A Two-way Monologue.”

Most recently, she wrote and directed the thriller “Intruder,” starring Song Ji-hyo and Kim Moo-yeol. The release of the movie, originally scheduled for March, has been postponed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sohn made her literary debut in 2017 with full-length novel “Almond.”

”Almond“ is about a boy named Yun-jae who was born with a condition where he cannot feel emotions. The condition is caused by his naturally small amygdalae, one of two almond-shaped parts of the human brain. Yun-jae cannot even feel fear or anger. The story develops as he meets Gon, who is full of strong emotions.

The novel will be published in three additional languages this year: English, Spanish and Hebrew.

By Song Seung-hyun (