Korean literature’s rising popularity in China marks a significant cultural trend, driven by an increasing interest in Korean culture and society’s pressing issues. The growing fascination with contemporary Korean literature began with the success of Cho Nam-joo‘s “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982,” which became a bestseller in China and sparked a surge in demand for translated Korean works. This trend highlights the versatility and appeal of Korean literature in addressing universal themes and resonating with a diverse Chinese audience.
At the forefront of this literary wave is Kim Cho-yeop, a Korean science fiction writer whose short-story collection “If We Cannot Move at the Speed of Light” has captivated Chinese readers, earning her prestigious awards and recognition. Kim’s success symbolizes the expanding horizons of Korean literature in China, where readers are now exploring various genres, including science fiction, reflecting a broader acceptance and appreciation of Korean cultural content.
Chinese readers, particularly young women, are the primary audience for Korean literature, drawn to its exploration of social issues like feminism and the challenges faced by the younger generation. Korean literature’s increasing prominence in China is also influenced by the popularity of K-dramas and K-pop, with publishers leveraging this connection to promote Korean books. This synergy between literature and other forms of Korean pop culture has further boosted the appeal of Korean literature among Chinese readers.
The diversification of Korean literature in China is evident in the increasing number of Chinese publishing houses investing in translated Korean works. From a handful of publishers before 2019, the number has grown exponentially, with regional publishing houses joining the fray. This expansion signifies a growing market and interest in Korean literature beyond just trend-following, encompassing books with deeper literary merit.
Translator Li Xia emphasizes the importance of Korea’s market positioning in literature, suggesting a move beyond being a source of trendy hallyu books to include works of literary significance. This strategy would help solidify the unique identity and special qualities of Korean literature in the Chinese market.
As Korean literature continues to gain momentum in China, it showcases the power of cultural exchange and the universal appeal of literature in bridging gaps between different societies and experiences.