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The LKL Korea Book DataBase

The LKL Korea Book Database is a list of books we have or would like to have on our bookshelves: books we’re looking forward to reading in the future; books we wish we’d read in the past; and yes, books we know we ought to read but probably won’t. Of course, it also contains books we have actually read, and many of them we have reviewed as well. It includes past titles as well as the upcoming ones, where we know about them.

Here’s an introduction to the database and its contents:

1 Database contents

1.1 Literature and Fiction

a) Korean prose literature in English translation

The K-Lit Hub: what we think is a pretty complete list of post-1900 Korean prose fiction that has been translated into English and published in a hard copy book. For the moment, we’ve excluded magazines, journals and online translations. The roughly 1% we haven’t logged represent a handful of books we know were published but which are now impossible to track down, or where there are equally serviceable and more readily available translations available. The database will grow to include eBooks and online translations where I know of their existence. The hub contains the following lists:

When you click on the name of an author or translator in any of the lists, you’ll be taken to a list of titles by that author / translator. Where an author both writes and translates, those lists are combined.

b) Other literature, including poetry and theatre

1.2 Non-fiction titles

As of July 2021 we’ve logged over 800 non-fiction titles. The challenge is listing them in a way that is as accessible as possible. Any suggestions on categorisation would be gratefully received. Feel free to drop us a note via the contact form.

Whereas with Korean literature in translation we’ve tried to be as comprehensive as reasonably possible, when it comes to non-fiction we have been more selective. In particular we have tended to filter out publications which are likely to become dated pretty quickly or where there’s a mass of publications to choose from and no obvious stand-out choice (for example publications on contemporary security, political and foreign policy issues, entry-level language books and profiles of hallyu stars). We’re still building this part of the database and estimate that it will grow to over 900 titles.

Here are some of the individual subject listings. The listings include works of fiction that deal with a particular topic. Currently the titles within each listing are in no particularly meaningful order: the ones I uploaded most recently are at the top of the list.

1.3 Recent and upcoming titles

2. Navigation

In addition to the subject listings above, we try as far as possible to be diligent in our tagging of books when we upload them. You can find a list of the keywords we use here.

Coming soon will be readily-accessible lists of authors, translators and publishers in the database – though you can already find those lists in our existing fully-comprehensive keyword directory here.

To assist browsing, at the bottom of each book’s entry in the database is a selection of up to five related titles, selected by the algorithm of the Contextual Related Posts plugin.

Sorry, but we haven’t yet figured out how to code a comprehensive advanced search function such as you might find on Amazon or on a library website. And we have no funding to pay for an external solution. For the moment, all we have is the google search box at the top of this page, which currently includes both blog posts and book database entries, though it’s on our to-do list to see if we can get a google search tailored just to our book database.

3. Completeness

With translated fiction and poetry we try to make this database as complete as we can, though if a title is no longer in print and unlikely ever to be again, then we’ll probably exclude it.

With non-fiction, we cannot hope to be complete. The problem is mainly a boundary problem: where to draw the line between a book billed as being on Colonial Korea that deals with Japanese assimilation policies, and a book billed as being on Japan which deals with its late 19th / early 20th century imperialism? Is it valid to include a PhD thesis published by a university press but exclude one that is self-published or published by a vanity press? Should we include all the cookery books, guide books, language books, grammars, dictionaries, picture books, K-pop fan books which sometimes are no more than aggregations of Wikipedia content? Should we include highly specialised titles whose readership is likely to be very limited? Should we include a 1980 publication predicting what Korea might look like in the year 2000? Some exhibition catalogues have hugely valuable essays about the artist involved; others are mainly picture books. And so on and on.

With fiction in English there are similar boundary questions.

So, bearing in mind that available time is limited, we apply arbitrary judgements and filters. The main filter we apply is this: if the book was put in front of us, would we be tempted to pick it up and browse through it? Even then, we include stuff that we think, in fairness, should probably be included but which does not immediately appeal to us at the time.

As a final check on our judgement, and bearing in mind that these lists can only contain the books we know about, we offer you the opportunity to submit titles for inclusion. So if you’re aware of an upcoming (or already published) book that we should be tracking, whether fiction or non-fiction, let us know about it. If it’s literature in translation, we’ll definitely add it. If it’s non-fiction, we’ll probably add it, but reserve the right to politely decline because hours in the day, and database space, are finite resources.