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2017.10.24 Elevating the Recognition of Korean Literature through Translation Contests
The "Korean Books I Want to Read in Japanese" Competition is being hosted by two entities sharing the goal of discovering promising new translators. The joint organizers are CUON, a publisher in Tokyo which specializes in introducing Korean literature to Japan, and K-BOOK Promotional Association, an organization which promotes the translation of Korean literature into Japanese. From the collection of short stories in "Shoko's Smile" (Choi Eun-yeong), entrants are asked to translate the title work and another piece of their choosing. The deadline is January 15, 2018.

The English translation of "The Vegetarian", originally written by South Korean female novelist Han Kang, was selected for the renowned Man Booker International Prize last year. It was the first that a Korean writer had ever received a prestigious overseas literary prize, and caused a major stir in Korean society. The same title has also been translated into Japanese by Kim Huna and published by CUON, receiving popular acclaim.

According to Kim Ji-myung of the Korea Heritage Education Institute (K'Heritage), the interest on translating literary works in South Korea heightened after Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata won the Nobel Prize in Literature for the novel "Snow Country" (1968). Up until then, it was believed that only Western literature came under the scope of such awards. 

Kim Ji-myung is also currently involved in the operations of the newly-established Global Korean Literature Translation Award (GKL Translation Award). In the article for The Korea Times, she describes some considerations for allocating prize money; for example, too big an amount and selecting a winner will be difficult. 

The £50,000 award conferred by the Booker Prize is equally divided between the author of the original text and the translator. Given that translation work was neither considered creative nor scholarly in South Korea, this news was regarded with surprise in the country. Kim Ji-myung also talked about the amount awarded by the Goncourt Prize, the most prestigious prize in literature in France. The recipient receives a paltry sum of €10, but it is more about the honor than the money, and the sales of winners’ books usually increase substantially.

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