SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — Four out of ten South Korean adults didn’t read a single book last year, but 60 percent don’t feel that their level of reading is lacking.
According to the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Tourism’s study on the nation’s reading habits disclosed on February 5, during the one-year period from October 2016 to September 2017, 59.9 percent of adults and 91.7 percent of students read at least one book (excluding comics, magazines, textbooks, educational texts).
Compared to the results of the same study conducted in 2015, reading declined by 5.4 percentage points among adults and by 3.2 percentage points among students to reach the lowest mark since data on reading habits began to be collected in 1994.
Both groups read fewer books than previously; the average number of books read dropped from 9.1 (2015) to 8.3 for adults, and 29.8 to 28.6 for students. However, the popularity of e-books grew, increasing by 3.9 percentage points (adults) and 2.7 percentage points (students) since 2015.
In addition, adults who read at least one book read an average 13.8 books, nearly identical to the 14 read on average by the same group in 2015, suggesting that the overall number of readers had declined, but that those who did read continued to do so at a consistent rate.
Also on a downward trajectory were responses as to whether individuals found the amount of reading they did to be insufficient. In 2011, 74.5 percent said yes; by 2013, 67 percent said the same, and by 2017 only 59.6 percent responded in the affirmative.
Adults spent an average of 55,000 won on 4.1 books in the year. Students purchased an average of 4.7 books.
Only 22.2 percent of adults and 63 percent of students reported that they made use of public libraries.
When asked to list the obstacles that make reading more of a challenge, “not enough time because of work (school, tutoring or extracurricular study)” was the most commonly given answer from both adults and students. Others from adults were “smartphone or internet use and games” and “not enough time because of other activities”. Students gave “dislike of reading and lack of habit of reading”, “smartphone or internet use and games” as some of their other answers.
An official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the low popularity of reading was an extremely serious problem, and that numerous initiatives would be undertaken to raise the percentage of the population that read at least one book a year to 70 percent.
The ministry’s reading habits study is conducted once every two years. The 2017 study was undertaken last November through December with 6,000 adults and around 3,000 students from 4th grade to high school as participants.
The ministry last year declared 2018 to be a “year of books” and set a goal of pushing up the publishing industry’s total revenues of 3.95 billion won in 2016 to 4.37 billion won in 2021.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)