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Books, Books, and More Books from Around the World

The Korea Foundation participated in the Seoul International Book Fair 2008, the largest event of its kind organized in Korea, to introduce its publications, periodicals, and multimedia materials. Moreover, this exhibition also served as a valuable opportunity for the Foundation to publicize its primary goals and activities to the Korean public.

The Seoul International Book Fair (SIBF) 2008 was held at the COEX, in Samseong-dong, Seoul, on May 14-18.
Now in its 14th year of operation, the event included the participation of 674 publishing concerns from 28 countries, which engaged in a variety of publicity and promotion activities under a theme of “Diversity in a Shared Future.”
This year, the SIBF adopted a Guest of Honor program for the first time, although such a practice is quite common at book fair events abroad. For its first guest of honor, China was selected, which helped to encourage the participation of some 107 publishing firms and organizations from China, including the Chinese Writers Association, along with the introduction of 15,000 Chinese books. In conjunction with the book exhibition, a variety of events and seminars were held as well, which included the Korea Digital Publishing Fair 2008, Seoul International Book Arts Fair 2008, and the International Publishers Association Congress 2008 in Seoul.



Korea Foundation Booth
The Foundation participated in the book fair to introduce its various publications and video materials, and to also promote its multimedia programs. On display were 30 titles of books, periodicals, and video materials produced by the Foundation itself or through the provision of support to relevant parties.
Many Korean and foreign visitors who stopped by the Foundation’s booth looked over and asked questions about the books on display. To attract the attention of visitors, the documentarytype films produced or supported by the Foundation were continuously shown on the flat-panel monitor installed at the booth.
The most popular films were "Korean Cinema, Unleashed!" that presents an overview of Korea’s film industry, and "The Beat, Beat, Beat of Korea Rak", which features the remarkable maneuvers of B-boys from Korea and the high-energy nonverbal performance of "Cookin’" Visitors associated with the publishing business and copyright-related organizations expressed keen interest in the Foundation’s program to support the publication of books on Korea.

Enhance Public Awareness
A vast majority of the visitors to the Foundation’s booth said that they had never even heard about the Korea Foundation.
They also wondered why the Foundation, a Korean organization, had set up its booth within the International Publishers Pavilion, instead of the Domestic Publishers Pavilion.
Nonetheless, many offered word of encouragement for the Foundation’s efforts to bolster the “Korea brand” value and global image of Korea, in addition to pointing out the lack of public interest in and the government’s limited support for such a role of the Foundation.
A French person spoke highly of Koreana, a culture and arts magazine published by the Foundation, while not ing that he had once visited Mungyeong Saejae, based on an article in “On the Road,” a compilation of travelogue columns of "Koreana."
Another visitor mentioned that his friend, a librarian of the Bonn University Library, was always grateful for the Foundation’s distribution program for Korea-related books and reference materials, and that the contributed items were placed in a separate section and very well utilized.
Meanwhile, UPI’s Seoul correspondent, Lee Jong-Heon, after looking over the Foundation’s materials, pointed out the importance of making the activities of the Foundation known not only to foreigners but also to the Koreans at home, while noting: “I did not know about these high-quality books on Korea. Considering the fact that most foreigners will ask their Korean friends about how to get information on Korea, it is necessary to let the Korean people know that the Foundation publishes these kinds of books and how they can be acquired.”
In this regard, it is essential to broaden awareness of the Foundation’s books and videos on Korea among domestic organizations and businesses that have frequent contact with foreigners. Since the Foundation now utilizes its Cultural Center to promote cultural exchange for the Korean public, many people think the Foundation is mainly a cultural organization. The participation in the SIBF served as an occasion to introduce Foundation’s overseas activities to Korea’s general public, although only indirectly.

Participation in Book Fairs Abroad
The foreign publishers, from such countries as France, Germany, and Japan, with booths at the International Publ ishers Pavilion were mostly involved with children’s books. A number of countries from the Middle East sponsored their own booths, of which the Saudi Arabia booth was especially popular because of its distribution of the Quran, the holy ure of Islam, for free.
Although the premier international book fair in Korea, the SIBF seemed to generate insufficient coverage from the media at home and abroad, while attracting only a rather limited number of foreign publishers, in comparison to local participants, and apparently struggling to garner adequate support overall. It is thus necessary to come up with various ways to encourage foreign publishers to more actively participate in the SIBF so that the event can be upgraded into a world-class book fair, rather than simply being a “festival of Korean publishers.”
In addition , as for the Korea Foundation, it needs to make continuous efforts to promote a better understanding about Korea through books and multimedia materials by participating regularly in worldrenowned book fairs, as well as the Seoul International Book Fair.