SEOUL, Oct. 24 (Korea Bizwire) – To commemorate 30 years of South Korean and Russian cultural exchange, a symposium held today at the Seoul Cyber University will disclose the results of a study analyzing the various aspects of all Russian literature translated into Korean from 1990 to September 2016.
Conducted by professor Kim Jin-young of the Department of Russian Language and Literature at Yonsei University, the study found that 1,023 Russian books had been published in South Korea since 1990. Of those, 19th century and early 20th century works comprised the majority, accounting for 57 percent and 36 percent of the total, respectively.
Professor Kim said, “Soviet-era literature and post-Perestroika era literature is read by less than 10 percent of Koreans. Compared to a century ago, when Russian literature was the favorite of the literati, not much has changed in terms of the types of literature Koreans favor.”
Kim also found that Tolstoy’s works accounted for 22 percent of all Russian literature sold, with runner-up Dostoevsky lagging behind at 12 percent.Interestingly enough, the results of Kim’s research indicated that many Koreans, both historically and in the present, revere Tolstoy as a virtuous mentor-like figure.
Kim attributes this tendency to the fact that the first translated works of Tolstoy to appear in Korea were his fables; it was only by the 1950′s that Tolstoy’s major works began to appear on bookshelves throughout the country.
Furthermore, from 1990 onwards, around 60 percent of Tolstoy’s published works were his fables.
In answering the question as to why Tolstoy’s fables were and are so popular, Kim replied, “[Tolstoy] captured a young reading audience by writing in an easy style that is pleasing to read and not too serious or ‘heavy’.”
However, Kim pointed out that there are some bad sides to Tolstoy’s popularity as a writer of fables. “Because of tendencies like these, that have been some unfortunate outcomes in which Tolstoy’s work is shunted to the side as students’ reading material only.”