[KS] Congratulations and a question

Brother Anthony anthony at ccs.sogang.ac.kr
Sun Dec 9 20:21:30 EST 2001

In an hour's time, the Korea Literature Translation Institute will be holding its first (and
the 5th overall) awards ceremony for the Republic of Korea Translation Awards. Congratulations
are surely due to the translators of the 5 prize-winning titles (2 English, 1 French, 1 German,
1 Portuguese) and the French publishers Actes Sud. Especially it is good to see 'A Ready-Made
Life' up at the top of the list, translated by the late Kim Jong-Un and Bruce Fulton.

In the light of this, I wonder if I might ask members of the list to share their insights on
the very vexed question of Copyright. More precisely, the immediate reason for my asking is
that the KLTI is launching a pocket-book series of Korean short stories in translation and
wants to include translations previously published "commercially" elsewhere with help from the
KCAF, in volumes that are still in print. I know that there have been conflicts about the legal
and financial implications of this. The KLTI would surely benefit from our list's collective

I recently wrote to one major publisher of such translations as follows:

<I cannot speak for them but the KLTI -probably- feels that if a translator got a fat subsidy
from them or their predecessors, then the translation "really" belongs to them. They probably
also feel that if the publishers got a subsidy and are not paying any royalties or translation
fees, then their rights should be -- to some extent at least -- non-exclusive. I think that
they would (or could) argue that by including some portion of a publication in their series,
which would be widely distributed in free gifts and also through commercial networking, that
would not be unfair competition but would rather serve as publicity for the fuller volume which
people might well not have heard of otherwise. It's in part a question of goals. "Getting
Korean literature widely known abroad" is their essential goal and for that all means are

My ideas may well be completely wrong-headed and I would be very interested to know how others
see the issues involved. One other aspect of this is the question of how books (especially
translations of Korean literature) that are published abroad could best be made available in
Korea? The stumbling block is the price. A $15 paperback book is not apparently unusual in the
US whereas 20,000 Won (or more) is big money.

I have the impression that vast quantities of modern Korean literature are now freely available
online and on CD-Roms without anyone having got the publishers' or authors' permission. Am I
right? and has this been challenged by anyone?

I would very much appreciate some enlightening discussions on these questions.

Brother Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul

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