The quest for Korean literature

안녕하세요!

As one of my majors is Korean Studies and I am currently working on a thesis that utilizes literature about or from the critical period of democracy and labor movements in the 1960s through 80s (send help), I have had my fair share of struggling to find source materials. When you’re not in Korea, it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy of a Korean-language book, let alone one in translation. Hard copy? Ebook? At this point, it doesn’t matter what format it takes, as long as it’s readable. Here are my methods for securing that hard-to-find copy of a Korean book I desperately want (or in the case of my thesis, need) to read. 

Hard copy: Amazon, WorldCat, university libraries

Impressively, Amazon often has one or two copies stocked of random Korean literature. You might have to try inputting in romanized Korean, however, but I recommend finding out the ISBN and searching for it instead of the title or author to save yourself the hassle of “correct” romanization (ha). More than a few times, I’ve found a book I needed for sale from a used book seller via Amazon – often for only one cent. The shipping might be about $6.99 to get it to you within a few days. It’s unlikely that it’s available for Prime, but $7 for a hard-to-find Korean-language text? Not bad. That’s how I managed to acquire Park Mingyu’s 카스테라. The price has jumped because a different seller stocks it now, but the point is that these books often can be found cheaply and second-hand if you hunt shrewdly.

You can also try searching on WorldCat, which is the world’s largest online catalog of libraries. More often than not, the text you want can be loaned or a copy can be scanned to your local library – though if you’re a university student or in academia, you should try your university’s library first, especially if you are lucky enough to have an Asia Library like the University of Michigan – Go Blue! Of course, WorldCat also searches university libraries, which tend to be the ones that have Korean texts.

And if you’re a really desperate college student? Contact a Korean Studies/Language professor at your university and see if they happen to have a copy. They may offer you scanning access or even loan it to you if they know you.

There are many others sites such as twoChois where you can order Korean books and have them shipped to your door from Korea, but I find that those sites tend to cater to general pop-culture interests and that shipping can be very expensive or slow depending on where you live. twoChois also has a special order form where you can request products that they don’t already sell, but I have never used it. For those reading older or less popular Korean books, my methods here may be more applicable (and can help when access to the text is time-sensitive).

ebooks: Interpark Global 

Kindle has almost no Korean ebooks as far as I have found, something that frustrated me until my boyfriend helped me with Interpark Global’s ebook site, and I acquired Interpark Global’s ebook reader for my phone. The books there are marketed to a US audience and prices are listed in US dollar amounts, although the site is entirely in Korean. The ebook reader is no state-of-the-art exhibit of literature online, but it gets the job done. Is it frustrating to make it work? Yes, but if it means you finally get to click some buttons and immediately read that book that you wanted or needed, then who cares? As Interpark Global puts it in typical Interpark fashion – “한국책 미국에서도 싸게! 빠르게! 인터파크글로벌” – you can read Korean books in the US cheaply! Quickly!

However, their interface can be difficult, especially if your skills aren’t yet up to the challenge of navigating a Korean website. Don’t worry though, because I currently am working on a blog post for February to show would-be readers how to access the site, buy ebooks, and read them on a smartphone.

 

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Do you know of any other ebook readers or ways to access Korean literature? Please leave suggestions and questions in the comment section below!

읽어 주셔서 늘 감사드립니다. 또 방문해 주시기 바랍니다!

 

지금 재생 중:

When a singer called 오왠 reminds you a bit of a singer called 오혁. Coincidentally, both make lovely music.

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6 thoughts on “The quest for Korean literature

  1. Some Korean literature is online for free especially short fiction and poetry. You need to search using 한글. You can also search Google Books (in 한글). You will find previews of books where you can read quite a bit, especially poetry. University of Hawaii has a list of translated Korean authors and their translated works, sometimes with links or references to where you can find them. The literary journal Azalea (yearly, in print since 2007 I think) publishes translations of old and new works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent points! I dabble in a range of those options though my focus for my thesis is older literature as well so even less likely to be found except second-hand through physical stores in Korea or used booksellers online. I have read some Azalea publications and am a big fan of their selection though!

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