The Korea Herald


Notable Korean children’s book authors to be published in foreign languages this year

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : April 15, 2020 - 16:40

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Kim Ryeo-ryeong (Biryongso) Kim Ryeo-ryeong (Biryongso)

Last month, Baek Hee-na, a children‘s book author and renowned picture book artist, won the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest children’s literature prize, becoming the first Korean to do so.

Many Korean children’s books, however, still have not received the global attention they deserve.

“We do not concentrate much on assisting the children’s book genre yet,” a Literature Translation Institute of Korea official told The Korea Herald. Of the more than 90 Korean literary works set to be published outside of Korea this year, fewer than 10 are targeted at children, according to the institute.

The following is a brief look at three noteworthy children’s book authors and their works that will be published overseas this year.

Kim Ryeo-ryeong

Born in 1971, Kim Ryeo-ryeong is known for her young adult fiction work “Wandeuk,” which came out in 2008. The novel became popular not only among children, but with adults as well, selling more than 700,000 copies. In 2011, the story was made into the movie “Punch,” directed by Lee Han.

The book is about a boy named Wan-deuk, a high school student who lives with his hunchback father and stuttering uncle. His high school teacher, Lee Dong-joo, who lives next door, meddles in Wan-deuk’s life. The story develops as the teacher starts to bring up topics about Wan-deuk’s mother, who left him 17 years ago.

“Wandeuk” will be translated into German this year.

Kim’s other novel “Thorn Confession,” which came out in 2012, will be published in Vietnamese in June this year.

The book starts with a boy named Hye-il confessing that he is a thief. Hye-il meets three friends -- Jin-oh, Ji-ran and Da-young -- who all have been through troubles of their own, and the friends each unveil their pains and, through sharing them, are healed.

Kim Jin-kyung (LTI Korea) Kim Jin-kyung (LTI Korea)

Kim Jin-kyung

Kim Jin-kyung started writing poems while working as a high school teacher in 1984.

Yet the poet is also known for his children’s fantasy book series “Cat School.” In 2006, the series was awarded the Le Prix des Incorruptible, a literary award for children and juvenile literature chosen by readers in France.

He now also leads the Presidential Committee on National Education.

The author created the story about cats upon hearing how cats often disappear when they are about to die. In “Cat School,” Min-jun’s cat disappears one day and the boy later finds out that his cat, in possession of magical powers, had set off on an adventure in a fantasy world. The 10-book series illustrates the theme of harmony of man and nature by raising the issue of environmental pollution.

The third book of the series will be translated into Russian this year.

Hwang Sun-mi (Yonhap) Hwang Sun-mi (Yonhap)

Hwang Sun-mi

“The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly,” by Hwang Sun-mi, has sold more than 2 million copies around the world since it was released in 2000 and translated into more than 27 languages.

Several adaptions of the book have been made: play, puppet show, family musical and an animated movie that was released in 2011.

Hwang’s “Black Sheep Live in the Backyard,” which was published in 2014, will be translated into Dutch and hit the shelves in the Netherlands this year.

A story about an old man who moves back to his hometown, the plot develops as the man encounters kids who trespass on his backyard. The children help the old man to connect with his neighbors.

By Song Seung-hyun (