Writing the World: East Asia
By Shaniah Shields, Jia Wen Ho, Leanne Francis and Christina Moore
In our third instalment of our 'Writing the World ' series, we are shedding light on the growth of publishing in one of the world’s most dynamic regions. East Asian publishers are seeking to support and promote authors, not just locally but on a bigger scale. The writing and publishing scene in East Asia is projected to continue its journey of rapid growth.
Uuganaa Ramsay, Author
Born and raised in Mongolia, Uuganaa Ramsay is now based in Scotland after receiving teacher training in the UK. After losing her son, Billy who has Down’s Syndrome, Uuganaa decided to honour his memory him through words. In her debut memoir, Mongol, she explores her Mongolian identity and upbringing, along with the bigotry she has faced through the offensive relation of “mongol” with Down's Syndrome. She advocates against the derogatory use of the term “mongol”, and has talked about 'The Meaning of Mongol' on BBC Radio 4, and has written a BBC article here.
Publishing in China is big with publishers like Chongqing Publishing House and a massive readership of webnovels with serialised chapters released daily or weekly. There are Mandarin books translated to English, however with strict censorship some Chinese books available internationally are banned in the country.
Gao Xingjian, Author
The first Chinese author to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature for the semi-autobiographical novel, Soul Mountain translated by Mabel Lee. Told through the first person 'I' and second person 'you', the book narrates Gao's personal journey through China after receiving a false diagnosis of cancer.
Shogakukan Inc. Publishers
Founded in 1922, Shogakukan Inc. originally specialised in age-specific textbooks for children, but now publishes a range of magazines, from children’s magazines to weekly magazines, fashion magazines and lifestyle magazines, while also publishing picture books, dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
Kazuo Ishiguro, Author
Born in Nagasaki in 1954, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first two novels, A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World are noted for their exploration into Japanese culture despite him having lived in Britain since the age of six. Nominated for four Man Booker Prize awards he eventually won the award in 1989 for his celebrated novel The Remains of the Day, which was made into an award-winning film in 1993.
Airiti Incorporation was founded in 2000, with its headquarters in Taipei, it is an e-content provider of Chinese and Taiwanese academic e-journals to over 72,000 libraries in 112 countries, they are the only country in the world to provide Taiwanese academic e-journals.
Sharp Point Press
Founded in July 1982 by Sing Wang, headquartered in the Zhongshan District, Taipei, Sharp Point Press originally published military-related books, however in 1990 they started the anime and manga magazine Magic Zone and officially started publishing manga.
Blacksmith Books focuses on publishing local non-fiction, which includes a wide range of genres: biography, business, culture, food, photography and travel. This English-language publishing house is not limited to its location, as they distribute their titles internationally in Asia, North America, Australia and the UK. Despite being non-fiction focused, Blacksmith Books also publishes a couple of fiction titles every year.
Viction Workshop Ltd
Founded by Victor Cheung in 2001, Viction Workshop prides itself on having publishing and book design at their core. They focus on art, design and graphic design-related titles, but also have a wide range of travel guides and children’s books. One thing that sets them apart from other publishers in East Asia, is that they claim to “connect creative talents and enthusiasts from all over the world through strong original concepts”.
Mandarina Books, founded in 2019 by Catarina Mesquita, is Macau’s first publishing house that is exclusively dedicated to children’s titles. They produce all of their content in three languages: Chinese – traditional and simplified, English and Portuguese. Mandarina’s aim is to teach children about Macau with a primary focus on the history and traditions that are at the heart of their country.
There are many talented North Korean writers who have been making waves in publishing. Bandi is the pseudonym of a North Korean writer whose 2014 short story collection, The Accusation, explains life for ordinary people under Kim Il-Sung's totalitarian regime. Yeonmi Park’s 2015 autobiography, In Order to Live, details her escape from North Korea, revealing how far one person will go for their own freedom.
Korean Literature Now
Korean Literature Now is a quarterly literature magazine published by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea that combines fiction, poetry, reviews and essays by Korean writers. KLN “seeks to ensure that Korean literature is experienced by a wide range of audiences,” showcasing the talent of incredible Korean writers, such as Kim Hye-jin, to its global readership. You can access free articles online here.
Notable South Korean writers include Emily Jungmin Yoon, author of Ordinary Misfortunes, and Han Kang, author of The Vegetarian, which won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016. Emily Jungmin Yoon also edited and translated the 2019 poetry collection Against Healing: Nine Korean Poets, published by Tilted Axis Press.