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Seoul book fair aims to boost readership, publishing industry, cultural exchange

According to Yonhap News,

(SEOUL=Yonhap News) South Korea's biggest book fair is to open in mid-June for five days, its organizers said Wednesday, aiming to revitalize the country's struggling publishing industry.

The 22nd Seoul International Book Fair, which will take place under the theme of "Communicate with Books, Design the Future," will be attended by 346 publishers from 20 countries. "Digital Book Fair Korea" will also be held alongside the main event.

"Visitors can see the future and trends of the Korean publishing industry by attending the digital book fair as well," Lee Ki-sung, President of Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea, said during a press briefing.

The 3rd Digital Book Fair will provide a venue for 103 electronic book experts to discuss how to kick-start the nascent industry and overcome challenges laid in front of them.

This year's book fair is happening as the country remains still upbeat about the winning of an international literary award by a Korean author last month. Novelist Han Kang became the first Korean to win the prestigious Man Booker International Award for her novel "The Vegetarian," an achievement seen by many here to show the possibility of Korean literature's bigger standing on the global literature stage.

While the author's participation in the event hasn't been confirmed yet, Deborah Smith who translated Han's book will take part in a panel discussion on June 19 on the future of Korean literature and the role translation plays in gaining a bigger foreign readership.

This year, French and Italian books will be under the spotlight as the countries have been designated the "Culture Focus" and "Spotlight Country," respectively.

France is joining the event as part of on-going extensive celebratory programs between the two countries to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations 130 years ago.

Anthony Chaumuzeau, director of the French Cultural Center in Seoul, said he hoped to introduce more lesser-known French writers at the event and connect the two country's publishers for better business ties.

"Around 20 French publishing companies will visit here and we will help them set up meetings with Korean industry experts to expand cultural and business exchanges between the two nations," he said during the briefing.

Highlighting how big a player French literature is in Korea and how important the Korean market is for French writers and publishers, he added, "In 2014, some 900 French books were published here in Korea. We are the fourth biggest country in Korea in terms of foreign book sales."

Italian Cultural Center director Angelo Gioe also sounded upbeat on the chance to publicize the country's literature and its book industry.

"The two countries harbor many similarities and have maintained cultural exchanges for a long time," he said, adding that his country would introduce more children's literature and illustrated books at the event.

Meanwhile, Media Policy Director Han Min-ho at the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism which sponsors the book fair, called for bigger attention to the event and the book industry in general.

"The Korean book industry gets by in a very unfavorable condition as less people read books, and for those who do, an increasing number consumes it on the Internet," Han said.

On top of programs that are designed to trigger readers' interests like talking to famous writers and attending literature seminars, some meaningful programs are in place for young job seekers as well, like how to start a business in this industry, Han said.

"Hopefully many people visit the book fair to get valuable, helpful information," Han added.

Copyrights Yonhap News. All Rights Reserved.

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Source: Yonhap News (Jun. 08, 2016)
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