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PRAGUE / SEOUL - Korean literature series launched in Czech translation

Modern and contemporary Korean literature receives attention in the Czech Republic through a translation of "Mannam" (Encounter) by Hahn Moosook. Published by Argo, leading publishing house, known to Czech readers for its high quality translations of such writers as Paulo Coelho, Umberto Eco, Ryu Murakami, Dan Brown or Cormac McCarthy, it is the first in a series of ten Korean novels to be translated into Czech in coming four years under the agreement of coopeation with Literature Translation Institute of Korea.

(From left to right): Petra Hovorková, programme director of Czech Centre Seoul, Jaroslav Olša, jr., Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Miriam Lowensteinová, translator and Kim Hogi, director of Hahn Moosook House

The series was presented to Korean public on an unexpectedly warm November afternoon last week at a special literary event held in the garden of Hahn Moosook House, a traditional hanok house, where late writer lived for many decades. The place which now serves as a small museum is also a birthplace where Hahn wrote many of her books, including Mannam. The speakers on the event included Mr. Kim Hogi, director of Hahn Moosook House and an eldest son of the writer, Mr. Jaroslav Olša, jr., Ambassador of the Czech Republic, who initiated the cooperation between Argo publishing company and LTI of Korea, Ms. Miriam Löwensteinova, translator of Mannam and head of Korean studies at Charles University, Prague, and Ms. Petra Hovorkova, programme director of Czech Centre Seoul (http://seoul.czechcentres.cz), who organized the event.

Hahn Moosook (spelled also Han Moo-sook, or Han Mu-suk) (1918-1993) was one of the most well-known figures in Korean cultural life. She used to be director of Korean PEN Club, Korean Women Writers´ Assembly, as well heading National Museum of Korea. Han Moo-sook won the first prize in a novel writing contest in the early 1941 After that she traveled from one literary triumph to another. Among others she won the Asia Foundation's Freedom Literature Award for a short story entitled "Abyss" (1957) and the Republic of Korea National Literature Award for “Encounter” (1986).



Translation of Mannam is to be followed by Czech edition of Kim Young-ha´s bestseller „Your Republic Is Calling You“ in December this year and Yi Munyol´s acclaimed novel „Poet“ planned for Spring 2014. Argo publishing house (www.argo.cz) is only the 4th international publisher having signed such a broad cooperation agreement with LTI of Korea on the occassion of Seoul International Book Fair this June. As Argo books have won extraordinary acclaim over the years, including numerous literary awards, both Czech and international; due to their books’ success and quality, Argo has become the  trend-setter and the market leader in the Czech Republic, combining literary excellence with commercial success, which would increase a visibility of Korean literature among Czech readers.

I am sure modern Korean novels could be succesful on highly competitive Czech literary market as there is an increasing interest in Korean culture in the Czech Republic nowadays,“ said Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr. who noted also a long tradition of translating Korean literature into Czech, which started already in 1925 with publication of two volumes of Korean fairy tales and followed in 1933, when the first of five editions of Younghill Kang´s novel The Grass Roof was published in Prague. In 1947, the first direct translation from Korean into Czech – Kim Nam-cheon´s novel Daeha - was published to be followed by not less than 50 other books translated directly from Korean, aminy them being classics by Kim Man-jung or Kim Sakkat, as well as poems by such masters as Ko Un.  Petra Hovorkova of Czech Centre Seoul specifically mentioned the importance of publishing the modern Korean writers as „only a handful novels by modern and contemporary Korean authors saw the print in Czech,“ and added that „such a project is thus an important vehicle for promoting contemporary Korea in the Czech Republic.“