By Charles Montgomery
SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- When Antonio says early in William Shakespeare's The Tempest "What's past is prologue," he is saying that what has gone before has merely set the scene for a glorious story to come. And so it is, at this moment, for the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea).
Last September, LTI Korea celebrated 10 years of service to Korea, Korean literature and its translation. At a two-day conference in Seoul, LTI gathered with students, publishers, professors and translators to assess the successes of the previous decade and the challenges of the future.
At that conference, participants noted the 486 books in 28 languages that LTI Korea has published, LTI Korea's first moves into social media and the success of its translator-training program. Everyone present at the conference also noted, however, the path that still lay ahead.
Now, with new CEO Kim Seong-kon firmly at its helm, LTI Korea is beginning to map out its specific plans for the next 10 years -- partnerships, education, and expanding the role and influence of LTI Korea using newly available tools, including social networking services (SNS) as well as more traditional publishing outlets.
Signing partnerships is underway, with two already near fruition. The first partnership is with the Asia Literary Review, which has recently published its spring volume composed entirely of content related to Korean literature.
"LTI Korea is an outstanding, professional and noteworthy organization. We have been fortunate to work with them," Kelly Falconer, the publisher of the Asia Literary Review, said. "They have been generous with advice and assistance, and have helped us identify talented Korean writers and translators, some of whom we have included in our spring issue. We shall include more Korean writers in future issues as well as on our Web site."
The second is a vast publishing partnership with Dalkey Archive Publishing in the United States, which will result in the simultaneous publication of some 25 translations of Korean literature in 2013. The authors include famous poet Ko Un as well as writers Yi Sang, Oh Chung-hee, Choi In-hoon and Yi In-seong.
Another series of partnerships will extend between LTI Korea and international education. LTI Korea plans to substantially extend its current Overseas Residency Program for Korean Writers, which chooses two or three writers and sends them to overseas universities for three months. LTI Korea initially plans to extend the stay to six months, and eventually to one year. This, CEO Kim says, will give writers a chance to become acclimatized to their countries of residence and "have, for example, book signing sessions, lectures and interviews with the press. Then they can promote Korean literature during their residence there."
The LTI Korea library will become a part of these partnerships. The library is located on the first floor of the LTI Korea building and contains a plethora of translated books, many of which are rare and/or out of print. The library will donate books to the major libraries, university libraries and public libraries in foreign countries.
"Also, we will sign a sort of MOU to continuously send our newly published works abroad. This is a good way to promote Korean literature, by donating books," said Kim.
LTI Korea is working on building ties between Korean and foreign universities that have Korean Studies programs so that LTI Korea and the universities can exchange professors, students and information. LTI Korea will expand Korean literature forums in major cities all over the world, like Paris, London, Rome, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Additionally, LTI Korea plans to increase its publication schedule and goals.
"We're going to switch from publishing books one at a time to publishing Korean literature series, like contemporary modern Korean literature, colonial Korean literature during the Japanese occupation, and also classical Korean literature," says Kim. "By doing so, foreign readers might have a wider perspective perceiving this literature."
In a major shift, LTI Korea will also focus on new opportunities made possible through the Internet and SNS.
"The importance of using the Internet and social media cannot be stressed too much. So we're planning to provide ample information about Korean writers on the Internet," said Kim. "We are considering administering at least 50 representative Korean writers on Wikipedia. Currently, it is difficult to find (them). You punch in the name of a famous Korean writer and nothing happens. It is a very urgent matter that we have to deal with."
The CEO promises that these efforts will also be put forth toward Youtube, podcasts, ebooks and smartphones. One example is that in addition to loaning and donating physical books, LTI also intends to deliver them electronically.
Plans are underway to expand the translation academy run by LTI Korea. The academy currently teaches approximately 100 students. The immediate plans are to expand that number to 200.
"(Beyond that) I am hoping to upgrade it to a regular graduate school awarding master's degrees in translation. So I will consult on this matter with personnel in the Ministry of Education. I see good possibilities," said Kim.
The institute also plans to expand its efforts with publishers. Having noted the smashing success of Shin Kyung-sook's "Please Look After Mom" in foreign markets, LTI Korea has recognized the importance of placing potentially popular Korean translations into the hands of powerful overseas agencies.
"So far we have tried to contact publishers directly and that's not a good way," noted Kim. By reaching out to publishing agencies instead, LTI Korea plans to utilize its local expertise in finding appropriate and successful publishers.
Taken together, this overall plan is designed to find the readers where they reside: through E-books on the Internet, agencies and publishers in the bookstores, public libraries and universities in education.
"Within 10 years LTI Korea will become a very prestigious and celebrated institution," Kim says. "I think we can make this institution the major center of promoting Korean culture."
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