2020 Participants

Jung-Sun Park

Past Program / 2020 Program / Jung-Sun Park


PublishersGimm-Young Publishers(Viche)
Viche was established in 2006 as a literary brand of Gimm-Young Publishers. Viche published about 400 titles so far with the commitment to achieve “a fascinating world of stories.” The titles include “Mo Joong-Seok Thriller Club”, a collection of premium thrillers from English and American literature, “Black & White”, a collection covering a wider spectrum of Japanese literature, from full-scale detective novels to young adult fiction, and “Modern & Classic”, a collection which showcases from classics beloved across generations to contemporary works.


Publishing Business Implications from COVID-19, Now and Next

A few days ago, on my way to work, I ran to catch up with a bus coming towards the bus stop but eventually I had to see the bus leaving just in front of my eyes. It was only because, seeing my face reflected on the window of the bus, I realized that I did not put the mask on. I could not even get into the bus as I felt embarrassed and guilty enough to have my face burning. I rushed buying a mask at the convenience store nearby and I got on, no, I could get on the bus with my nose and mouth covered. In the year of 2020, would I be the only person on the earth who has ever been startled at oneself’s bare face?

It has passed 8 months since the COVID-19 case was reported at first in Korea. We get used to the scene of people walking up and down the street with covered half of their faces with white masks. That looks somewhat eerie and forlorn. We see the number of new confirmed cases as a headline of evening news on TV, and we become used to it too. When will this situation end? Can we return to the same world as before? Where does this virus make the world head for? Perhaps some people may have already been moving towards that direction. As a person working with the books, as an editor working for the books, I naturally see this current situation from the perspective of books. So I am going to share with you about the things that I have seen, heard and thought of mostly over the last half a year. It inevitably contains a very personal point of view, but I believe sometimes the most personal stories are the most common.

 So I am going to share with you about the things that I have seen, heard and thought of mostly over the last half a year. It inevitably contains a very personal point of view, but I believe sometimes the most personal stories are the most common.

First, at the beginning of this year, some publishers have argued over publishing of books dealing with the COVID-19 as current affairs, questioning whether to publish such ‘timely books’ or not. On the other hand, the news was heard that the sales of children’s books increased sharply as the online school went longer. No one could expect this would continue throughout the whole spring and summer… even for the years to come… Everyone got expected it to end soon as we have also experienced the case of the H1N1 flu in 2009. It was rather hopeful and positive than being careless.

Second, there is a bus in front of my company that goes to the large bookstore nearby and I often visit the book store on Friday afternoons. One Friday I went to the bookstore by habit (with the mask, for sure). The place was so empty that day. Usually there were as many people sitting on the floor as I had to find another way around when passing through the corridor between bookshelves. There were even vacant seats on the large wooden table, which used to be always full of readers. That the number of people going outside had decreased, and the number of people visiting bookstores had also decreased sharply, I actually felt.

Third. The thing that fewer people visit bookstores means less readers buy books, as well as, less chances are for us to present books through bookstores. To make matters worse, “social distancing’ became a daily routine and people tended to avoid gatherings. All offline book events were cancelled. Neither ‘meeting the authors’ nor ‘book signing’ could be held. Since even the libraries were opened and closed repeatedly, events held at the local level disappeared at once. The only route we could utilize for presenting books was online. Independent bookstores at the forefront of culture of small-scale reading, have begun to carry on their own events using social networks. ‘Reading clubs’, which were actively conducted in various places, also went online one by one.

Fourth. More companies, mainly IT companies, have been adopting working from home, and school went online. The anxiety, that one can get infected or infect others, prevented people from going out of the house on weekday evenings or weekends. Students who cannot go to school and office workers who cannot go to the office… they become to have more time to stay home. As people have more time available, people flock to the OTT platforms like Netflix or Watcha (one company growed nearly doubled compared to the first half of last year). When we editors gather together, we talk half jokingly half seriously “there are so many interesting things in the world, then who’s going to read the novel?” At the same time, we have to admit that reading as a hobby or for leisure has largely been replaced by smart phones or tablets. However, with the start of the second half of the year, the rising trend of OTT platforms got noticeably slower. People are wandering to find another ‘fun’. So this is the time to think carefully that there are so many interesting things in the world, then why we have to read books.

Fifth. As of early September 2020, 27 million confirmed cases and 900 thousand deaths from the COVID-19 were reported worldwide . This global disaster made it hard to travel between countries and made some people unfriendly towards outsiders or foreigners. Airlines and travel agencies suffered severe damage since traveling abroad became impossible. The world with traveling impossible is killing the travel books. No one can guarantee whether revised edition of traveling books will be released or not next year. But, domestic travel has emerged in reaction of declining overseas travel. I found it so fresh and unfamiliar to see domestic travel books , instead of overseas travel books, displayed on the bookshelves in the bookstores .

Sixth. Airlines faced crisis since the movement of people and logistics became difficult . Restaurants and noraebangs suffered a big loss since gatherings got reduced or banned.
People felt a vague uneasiness about the future, witnessing the harsh realities that even pilots or flight attendants could become unemployed and millions of self-employed people would think of closing their business. Thereupon, books on stocks or real estate investment jumped to the top of the best sellers.

Seventh. The success or failure of a book is usually judged in a few months, but there has never been a big change in such a sudden like now. The current situation is reflected right away and specific fields stumble. Major publishing houses such as Gimm-young (which Viche belongs to) can endure as one side rises and one descends, by turns. However, smaller ones which specialize in one or two fields may have been pushed to the edge of the cliff. Ups and downs of a publisher, like any other business, are linked directly with the survival of tens, hundreds of people. It is necessary to make a more precise and close look at the situation and present support plans.

Eighth. What can be expected in the time of a global pandemic where even an exit is not visible? In the beginning of the pandemic, each one came up with a forecast within one’s own knowledge. However, as the situation prolonged, the forecasts were replaced with desperate wishes. Wishes of wanting going back to normal, going back to the days without masks, going back to the days people having chats in a cafe. Back in the days, before 9/11 attacks, awareness of aircraft terrorism was low, so restrictions on carry-on baggage were also loose. But now it became normal that prior to departure, people drink up or throw away the liquid bottle that contains more than 100ml. In the same context, after COVID-19, there will be so much changes in our lives, we will adapt to that, I suppose. We do not know yet if we may feel so natural to go out wearing a mask like now… if people may meet each other online instead of face to face… Or if COVID-19 may become a illness like seasonal influenza. And we do not know yet, even in that world, if books may still play a role as a medium for conveying knowledge and information, a means for conveying stories and emotions, and a medium for throwing messages and transforming society.

There are quite a few words that have come to represent different periods. For instance, “IMF” for the year 1998, “World Cup (semi-finals)” for 2002 will be heard again forever. The words that have been used a lot for a certain period regardless of being good or bad then will be remembered beyond their original meanings. The year 2020 is not over yet, and the pandemic is extremely ongoing. We still do not know how this situation will end, but we know that there is a high possibility that this time will be remembered with the word COVID-19 in the future. Hopefully sooner the time comes when we just have a dim memory of the time of COVID-19…




생각의 시대
Young-Gyu Kim / Gimmyeong Publisher

Era of Thought
Cho-Yeob Kim / Hubble

Architecture,Hear It Like Music and See It like Art
Seo Hyeon/ hyohyung Publisher
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