Ex­hi­bi­tion looks into mod­ern pub­lish­ing his­tory

The Korea Times - - BOOKS - By Kwon Mee-yoo [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

“Pub­lish­ing a Book — 100 Years of Mod­ern Pub­lish­ing in Korea,” an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Sam­seong Mu­seum of Pub­lish­ing, sheds light on the his­tory of mod­ern pub­lish­ing in Korea, which is full of ups and downs.

“The his­tory of pub­lish­ing is the his­tory of pub­lish­ers,” Kim Jong-gyu, founder of the mu­seum, nes­tled in Gugi-dong, Jongno-gu, said. “Korean pub­lish­ers have been print­ing books de­spite tough times, such as the an­nex­a­tion of Korea by Ja­pan and cen­sor­ship by the govern­ment. We or­ga­nized an ex­hi­bi­tion to take a look at Korea’s mod­ern pub­lish­ing in­dus­try by pub­lish­ing house.”

Kim is a man of pub­lish­ing, who took over the fam­ily busi­ness Sam­seong Pub­lish­ing Com­pany and ran it suc­cess­fully. The mu­seum is also based on Kim’s per­sonal col­lec­tion of 100,000 printed works, in­clud­ing a Na­tional Trea­sure and nine Trea­sures.

The ex­hibit show­cases 110 rare pub­li­ca­tions from 37 pub­lish­ers in the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion, rang­ing from books of Hoe­dongseog­wan, founded in 1897, to those of Hangilsa Pub­lish­ing, es­tab­lished in 1976.

Kim, who also serves as pres­i­dent of the Korean Mu­seum As­so­ci­a­tion, said there was never a fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment for Korean pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies. “This ex­hi­bi­tion is ded­i­cated to those pub­lish­ers who con­tin­u­ously pro­duced books de­spite harsh con­di­tions,” Kim said.

The ex­hibit di­vides Korea’s mod­ern pub­lish­ing his­tory into three pe­ri­ods that date back to the late 19th cen­tury.

The first phase be­gins in 1883, when the Joseon Dy­nasty es­tab­lished Bang­munguk, or the Of­fice of Cul­ture and In­for­ma­tion, which in­tro­duced West­ern-style print­ing ma­chines and mov­able type.

A high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion is the fifth edi­tion of “Mu­jeong” (Heart­less­ness) by Yi Kwang-su (18921950). “Mu­jeong” is con­sid­ered the first mod­ern work of fic­tion in Korea, se­ri­al­ized in the Maeil Sinbo news­pa­per and re­leased by Korea’s first mod­ern pri­vate pub­lisher Sin­mung­wan in 1918.

“Back then print­ing houses dou­bled as pub­lish­ers,” Pyo Jeong-hun, a lit­er­ary critic, said. “Mu­jeong was pub­lished by sev­eral print­ing and pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies, up to the ninth edi­tion by Bak­mun Pub­lish­ing Com­pany in 1953. Most of th­ese edi­tions have dis­ap­peared and this is the only re­main­ing copy of the fifth edi­tion by Hoe­dongseog­wan. We have to re­search fur­ther to find out if this edi­tion dif­fers from oth­ers.”

Also on view are “yuk­jeon soseol,” or six-coin nov­els, the first low­priced pock­et­book nov­els to pop­u­lar­ize lit­er­a­ture, by Sin­mung­wan.

“Pop­u­lar nov­els such as the Record of Lady Sa’s South­ward Jour­ney were pub­lished in the form of yuk­jeon soseol,” Pyo said.

The sec­ond phase is the pe­riod after lib­er­a­tion from Ja­pan in 1945 un­til the 1950s, when many pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies were es­tab­lished amid a burst­ing de­sire for knowl­edge after the war. Many well­known Korean pub­lish­ers, in­clud­ing Hyeon­amsa Pub­lish­ing and Hyun­dae Mun­hak Pub­lish­ing, were founded in the 1950s.

“After Korea’s lib­er­a­tion on Aug. 15, 1945, pub­lish­ers reg­is­tered with the govern­ment,” Pyo said. “How­ever, pa­per was very rare and the pri­or­ity was given to text­books and news­pa­pers first, then pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies.”

The critic said Jeong Bi-seok’s novel “Madame Free­dom” is con­sid­ered Korea’s first best-seller. “Chun­won Seogan Mun­beom” (“Ex­am­ples for Let­ter Writ­ing” from Chun­won Yi Gwang-su) was an­other pop­u­lar book from the 1950s.

“Let­ters were a ma­jor means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and it was im­por­tant to write proper busi­ness or love let­ters,” Pyo said. “So th­ese kinds of books, telling read­ers how to write good let­ters, were quick sell­ers.”

The ex­hibit de­fines the 1960s as the balmy days of pub­lish­ers, as the spread of knowl­edge was cru­cial amid rapid growth.


A vis­i­tor looks at books on dis­play at “Pub­lish­ing a Book — 100 Years of Mod­ern Pub­lish­ing in Korea,” an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Sam­seong Mu­seum of Pub­lish­ing in cen­tral Seoul.

The fifth edi­tion of Yi Kwang-su’s “Mu­jeong” (Heart­less­ness)” from Hoe­dongseog­wan

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