Producing Korean literature (KLit) for export

Peggy Levitt, Bo Seon Shim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How does art from what have been culturally peripheral countries that were not former colonies of Western powers scale shift or find its way to the global center? What can the Korean case tell us about the circulation of contemporary literature in a “small language?” The scholarly literature offers many answers to these questions: the role of intermediaries, the power dynamics within the world system of translation, the topographies of literary circulation, and a range of other political, cultural, economic, and social factors. We propose that the Korean case sheds new light on these discussions in several important ways loosely subsumed under the umbrella of infrastructures—the platforms, passageways, containers, and gates that organize the writing, reading, publishing, and marketing of the literature. We see three kinds of infrastructures as catalysts of Korean literary success including infrastructures of export and promotion, infrastructures of discovery and consecration, and infrastructures of connection and vernacularization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalJournal of Chinese Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Prof. Lee edits the journal Azalea, which tries to jumpstart circulation by publishing directly in English, bypassing the need for translation. Azalea—a journal of Korean Literature and Culture in English—is published each year by the Korea Institute at Harvard with support from the International Communication Foundation in Seoul. The target audience is not ordinary readers but professors, translators, and researchers who will then learn more about Korean literature and serve as future culture brokers. So far, he claims, the journal has been adopted as a text in more than 10 colleges and approximately 3000 copies are downloaded each year. The publication’s success drives home that the curricular needs of US and European universities are also behind the rise of Korean literature.

Funding Information:
We thank the Yonsei University Humanities Center, Yujin Ko, Paul Chang, Harris Kim, Sunhee-Lee, Doyeon Shin, and the editors of this special volume for their contributions to this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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