Publishers in the early stage of modern era
Gwanghakseopo, also known as Kim Sang Man Chaeksa, is a publisher that led the book market in Korea in the 1900’s. Gwanghakseopo began as Kim Sang Man Chaeksa first. Kim Sang Man Chaeksa underwent reorganization as Gwanghakseopo in 1906 with participation of Chi-ho Yoon, Sang-seol Lee, Jeong-cheol Nam, Gyeong-gu Cho, Hak-jin Kim, Jin-soo Kim and Byeong-hang Lim, etc. as the founders. Prospectus for founding of Gwanghakseopo asserted that the company will publish and distribute books for elementary to high school students throughout the country by considering the books in the eastern and western world, and circumstances in Joseon.
Following the intent disclosed in the prospectus, Gwanghakseopo actively pursued publication activities immediately following its establishment. It actively published not only various types of textbooks but also a wide range of books including historical bibliography such as [Italy Geonguk Samgeoljeon] by Chae-ho Shin and books for general attainment such as [Hyeoleuiru], the first new-style novel in Joseon, by In-jik Lee. [Daehan Maeil Shinbo] published on January 31, 1907 has list of 28 new books published by Gwanghakseopo and these books covered a wide range of areas including history, geography, linguistics, law, ethics and ideology, etc.
However, the publication activities of Gwanghakseopo that led the publishing industry in the 1900’s became greatly withdrawn mainly due to the oppression of the Japanese military government in the 1910’s. The Japanese imperialism has been exercising strict control over the publishers in Korea in order to fully colonize Korea from the early days of its military occupation through extensive censorship. In particular, the Japanese imperialism launched full-scale censorship on the books that were circulated in the book market after having taken away the national sovereignty of Korea. Gwanghakseopo was the publisher that suffered the greatest damages at the time. According to preceding researches, a total of 16,238 volumes of 12 books published by Gwanghakseopo including [Yeojadokbon], [Textbook for elementary school logics], [Chodeungsohak Susinseo], [Doctrines of state politics], [Gukminsuji], [Segyesamgoeimul], [Atrocity of the 20th century, Imperialism], [Monggyeonjegalryang], [Euljimundeok], [Italy Geonguk Samgeoljeon] were confiscated. As the result of Japanese imperialism, it was unavoidable that Gwanghakseopo disappeared from the stage of the history. However, other publishers filled in the vacancy left by the disappearance of Gwanghakseopo with the introduction of new books.
Hoedongseogwan is one of the publishers that led the early stage of the modern publishing cultures of Korea. Although the name Hoedongseogwan began to appear in the book advertisements since the latter part of the 1900’s in earnest, it began operation much earlier. Hoedongseogwan was established by its president Yoo-sang Koh by succeeding Gojehongseosa that his father, Je-hong Koh, founded and operated. Je-hong Koh, who was a fabric trader, entered the publication industry by purchasing a house with attached bookshop at #14 Namdaemun-ro 1-ga of today (the former site of Joheung Bank) at the end of 1880’s. At the end of the 1900’s, some 20 years thereafter, his oldest son, Yoo-sang Koh, took over the family business to operate the publishing house. Hoedongseogwan was then succeeded by Byeong-chang Koh, the second son of Yoo-sang Koh, establishing fame of Hoedongseogwan as a publishing house operated over 3 generations.
[Hwaseongdonjeon] (1908) that dealt with the bibliography of George Washington, the first president of the USA, was the first book published by Hoedongseogwan. [Hwaseongdonjeon] was translated by Hae-jo Lee, who was one of the 2 greatest authors in the area of new-style novel along with In-jik Lee, widely known as the first author of new-style novel in Korea. Hoedongseogwan published a wider range of books following the publication of [Hwaseongdonjeon]. Among these, [Jajeonseokyo] was one of the books that achieved great successes. 5,000 volumes of [Jajeonseokyo] written by Seok-young Ji, who took initiatives in proliferation of vaccination, were printed for each of its 16 editions from the 1st edition in 1909 to the 16th edition in 1925. In addition, new-style novel by Chan-sik Choi, [Chuwolsaek], published in 1912 was another well-known best seller of the publisher with printing of 18 editions until 1923.
Hoedongseogwan enjoyed its heydays during 1910~1920, never relinquishing its leading status in the industry to any other publishers during this period. At the time, Yoo-sang Koh, the president of Hoedongseogwan, established Gwangikseogwan as a subsidiary company of Hoedongseogwan and assigned its management to his younger brother, Gyeong-sang Koh. He also established a printing house, Gyemunsa, to be managed by his youngest brother, Eon-sang Koh. However, with the continuous emergence of publishers armed with new technologies and enormous capitals, prowess of Hoedongseogwan that led the prosperity of the modern publishing cultures began to dwindle after the 1920’s.
Shinmungwan established by Nam-seon Choi in 1908 is a publishing house that marked a new era in the history of modern publishing cultures of Korea. This was the results of combination of the unparalleled talents and capabilities of Nam-seon Choi in publishing planning, and enormous capital and advanced technologies of Shinmungwan. In particular, since Shinmungwan also operated its own printing house, it was able to guarantee the best quality for the entire processes of publication of books ranging from casting of print types, designing of cover pages and illustration, and bookbinding.
In fact, it was a magazine rather than a book that Shinmungwan first published. Shinmungwan, by publishing magazines such as [Sonyeon], [Bulgeun Jeogori], [Ideul Boy] and [Cheongchun], etc. for students and educated people, completely revolutionized the magazine culture in Korea. Such novelty of Shinmungwan was exhibited in the publishing of books. It successively published ‘Sipjeonchongseo’ the first planned series in Korea, and ‘Yukjeon novel’, which is the pioneer of public pocketbooks, as well as the classic literatures of Korea and China, and translated novels of the western world. Moreover, it put efforts towards compilation of various learning materials, instruction books and dictionary. In fact, [Mujeong], the first modern novel of Korea by Gwan-soo Lee, was also published by Shinmungwan.
In spite of the enormous efforts it has put in, the fame of Shinmungwan did not last long. While Nam-seon Choi, who was the key person in Shinmungwan’s operation, was imprisoned due to his participation in the March First Independence Movement, it was inevitable that the fame of Shinmungwan, which led the publication industry in Korea in the 1910’s, also dwindled. Although the name was changed from Shinmungwan to Dongmyeongsa in 1922 shortly after the release of Nam-seon Choi from the prison and attempts were made to achieve re-establishment of its former fame, it was not possible to catch up with the new trends and regain dominance in the industry.
Dongyangseowon is a renowned publisher specializing in new-style novel in the 19210’s. Jun-ho Min, the president of Dongyangseowon, is a descendant of Yeoheung Min family, a very wealthy and prominent aristocrat family at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. When considering that majority of the publishers at the time were from middle class or former merchants, the social background of Jun-ho Min was one of highly unique characteristics of Dongyangseowon.
Jun-ho Min established Dongyangseowon at about March 1910. In its initial stage, Dongyangseowon dealt mostly with study materials and Christian literatures, and undertook subcontract works for other prominent publishing houses such as Gwanghakseopo at the time. Then, it began to expand its operation by purchasing publication rights of books from other publishers that became the victims of oppression by Japanese imperialism. It appears that Dongyangseowon sought to manage its operation more stably given the fact that the publishing industry in Korea was still at infantile stage and great deal of fluctuations in social and political situations are experiences at around the time of Japanese annexation of Korea.
Dongyangseowon focused on publication of novels. In particular, Dongyangseowon planned large scale novel series through the publishing rights it purchased for new-style novel until the early 1910’s. At first, this novel series was referred to as “Novel Club” and changed to “Novel Series” shortly after. The 1st series of the series was composed of a total of 10 novels including 1 new-style novel by In-jik Lee and 6 new-style novels by Hae-jo Lee. In the case of the 2nd series, it was composed of a total of 10 novels including 1 new-style novel each by In-jik Lee and Hae-jo Lee, 2 new-style novels by Gyo-je Kim, 1 new-style novel by Yeong-un Park and 4 classic novels. In this manner, Dongyangseowon published a minimum of 34 novels until 1913 under aforementioned plan to publish novels in series. This novel series of Dongyangseowon made enormous contributions towards new-style novel occupying core status in the publication market in the 1910’s. However, the fame of Dongyangseowon that led the novel publication of novels in the 1910’s gradually faded when Jun-ho Min left the publication industry at about 1925.
Bogeupseogwan, similar to Dongyangseowon, was a publisher that specialized in novels in the 1910’s. Yong-jun Kim, the president of Bogeupseogwan, established Bogeupseogwan by taking over Daehaeseolim at around 1908. Daehanseolim was a publisher that became famous for publishing the first edition of [Gumageom] by Hae-jo Lee in 1908.
Although Bogeupseogwan was a publishing house that established firm foundation as a publisher specializing in novels in 1910, it fell behind Dongyangseowon in terms of its scale of operation and quality of books published. While Dongyangseowon was equipped with its own independent printing system by procuring enormous funds, Bogeupseogwan could not secure sufficient capital and independent printing facilities. For example, while Jun-ho Min made investment of 65,000 Won for the establishment of Dongyangseowon, Yong-jun Kim invested about 10,000 Won into Bogeupseogwan. Although it was not a small sum of money at the time, it nonetheless was not sufficient to execute planned publication of literatures similar to the novel series of Dongyangseowon.
Bogeupseogwan published about 10 novels during the 1910’s including 3 new-style novels by Hae-jo Lee. In comparison to Dongyangseowon, it was substantially smaller in size and failed to demonstrate its unique characteristics in its publication planning capabilities, Moreover, at the onset of 1920’s, the capabilities of Bogeupseogwan as a publishing house were paralyzed. Nonetheless, the contributions that Bogeupseogwan made in heightening the fervor for publication of novels and proliferating the popularity of new-style novels in the 1910’s should not be forgotten.