What’s new with South Korean science fiction? 

  • There are new platforms!

America has graphic novels; Japan has anime; and South Korea has web comics. Web-based comics known as ‘webtoons’ are popular. Thanks to Korea’s world’s fastest optic networks. Webtoons are the ideal comics, since they can also be read on smartphones. They are coloured cartoons that can also incorporate music, special effects, and moving images. They took off through the trend of changing platforms from books to TV to smartphones.

Now, more and more webtoons are being made into TV dramas, movies, or even novels.

The webtoon market is worth 700 million dollars a year in Korea alone. This popularity is likely to be exported to China and the United States.Even in the U.S., where mostly only hero stories are popular, other genres (romance, science fiction, etc.) have become available through webtoons (tapas media).

The Korean company Naver has translated webtoons into five languages through the Line service and is sharing them successfully online.

http://www.webtoons.com/en/

http://comic.naver.com/index.nhn

The next Korean Wave, surpassing even TV dramas and music, may be of webtoons.

  • South Korean Science Fiction has a new kind of story.

    South Korean science fiction authors and readers include many women and young people. In addition, the wealth of story-worthy events we have accumulated over the last thousand years are a resource for imagining new stories.

Korea-American writer Lee Yoon-ha is known for telling Korean stories within his work. His first feature-length work, Ninefox Gambit, won a Locus award this year and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

 

 

  • South Korean science fiction literature is still a new addition to the world market.

That’s because this is only the beginning. With the exception of Lee Yoon-ha and the author Kim Bo-young, who writes short story for Clark’s World and FAA, there are hardly any translations of Korean science fiction. A collection of Korean science fiction short stories is set to be published in the U.S. for the first time next year, 2018.

Korean contemporary SF books

Korea’s Biggest SF brand Goldenbough’s Living next door superhero, Love monorail.

Eunhangnamu Publishing’s Gamatle Style (Bae, Myung hoon), Jaein Jaewook Jaehoon (Jung saerang)

History of Korean Science Fiction and Fantasy literature

  • How and when did it happen in Korea?

Koreans have loved fantasy literature for thousands of years. Many beloved old Korean folk stories and literature classics still influence modern day Korean literature, TV dramas and movies.

Web-based fantasy fiction has a bigger market share than any other fiction genre in Korea.

The science fiction genre first appeared in Korea 110 years ago with The Adventures of Travel Under the Sea, published in Taegeukhakbo in 1907. The first work of Korean science fiction was Doctor K’s Study by Kim Dong-in in 1929.

 

Lovers Under the Moon, Sin Yoonbok (1758~?).

Twin swords dancing by Sin Yoonbok (1758~?).

Mural painting of Goguryeo-Old Korean dynasty (Mid 6th century).

Wearing a hat decorated with golden ornaments,
A white horse is slowly circling.
As it flutters its wide sleeves,
It now looks like a bird from the east.

The above is the poem “Goguryeo” written by Chinese poet Li Po (702~762 AD) after watching a Goguryeo dance performance in the Tang dynasty (China).

At first, many works of science fiction were written and translated by reformists with the intention of enlightenment and Westernization; after the 1950s the boom took off in earnest. It’s no coincidence that this was at the same time as the outbreak of the Korean War. The war was when everything collapsed. Cities, buildings, culture, families collapsed, and even the Korean peninsula itself was divided into the two Koreas.

New things began to fill the wasteland left by the war’s destruction. It’s no surprise that in the 1950s author Han Nak-won began publishing a number of science fiction works containing messages of young people’s hopes and dreams for a vast universe. In the 50s and 60s most written works were comic books and young adult novels.

By the 1970s, artists like Bok Geo-il (1946~) began to gain recognition abroad for their deeply sociological science fiction. Even so, science fiction and fantasy were still not mainstream literature.

In the 1990s, Djuna’s work, with its high popular appeal and literary skill, created a chance for science fiction to gain attention. Now many artists, such as Kim Chang-gyu, Bae Myeong-hun, and Kim Bo-young, are following that path. In addition, things changed in 2010 when mainstream writers began to borrow science fiction devices. As a large number of writers entered science fiction literature, the quality of work improved and public expectations for science fiction literature genre were raised.

Changbi publishing’s Syncher (Bae, Miju), We are Not Yet God (Djuna)

http://www.sffd.co.kr/

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