(ATTN: UPDATES with details throughout)
By Park Boram
SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- Masuo Omura, a professor emeritus at Japan's Waseda University, has for decades spearheaded the study of modernization-era Korean literature in Japan, and his efforts culminated in the discovery of the forgotten tomb of the beloved Korean poet Yun Dong-ju in China 30 years ago.
Last week, he was chosen for the culture minister's prize, the highest honor at the 2018 LTI Korea Awards of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI), in recognition of his translation of "Hometown," a colonial-era novel by late Korean writer Lee Gi-Young. The Japanese-language version was published in 2017.
The LTI Korea Awards are given to recognize excellent translation and promotion of Korean literary works.
"This is my first prize from the government of South Korea. I am honored and delighted," Omura said in a press conference on Monday.
The book was the final part of an eight-volume Japanese-language collection of selected modern Korean literature. The senior scholar was one of the translators commissioned to compile eight key Korean novels for the collection in a joint project by the Japanese publishing company Heibonsha and the LTI.
His translated works of early-modern Korean literature are of little commercial value in Japan, with hardly any of them sold to general readers. "But I do not seek sales as I pursue (Korean literature). I have been working so far with a belief that someday, in 10 years or 100 years, somebody may want to study (Korean literature) based on my books," he said.
South Korea launched the LTI Korea Translation Awards in 1993 as a biennial event before turning it into an annual ceremony in 2003 under the institute. The culture minister's award for the best translated Korean literary work was established this year as part of the Korean government's efforts to promote Korean literature worldwide.
Janet Hong, a long-time translator living in Canada, won the LTI Korea Translation Award, the second-highest award, for her English rendering of writer Han Yu-joo's "The Impossible Fairy Tale."
The same award was given to Lidia Azarina, who translated Han Chang-hoon's "I Like It here."
A total of 167 Korean literary works, translated into 29 foreign languages and published in 2017, competed for the LTI Korea Translation Awards.
"The Impossible Fairy Tale" is Hong's first translation of a full-length Korean book.
"When I first started out as a translator (15 years ago), K-pop and Korean drama used to be something only for Koreans, but now it is a completely different environment," she said, adding that the global growth of popularity of Korean culture has led to increased interest in Korean literature as well.
The Korean agency also recognized the French publishing house Editions Philippe Picquier and German journalist Katharina Borchardt for their contributions to the promotion of translated Korean literature. They were both given LTI Korea Outstanding Service Awards.
Six other translators were given LTI Korea Awards for Aspiring Translators, including Sean Lin Halbert, who published "Sole Possession" in English and Lee Eun-jung, who published "C'etait la sienne" in French.
A total of 186 translated works in seven languages competed in the category for novice translators, according to the LTI.
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