Booker International Prize winner urges fellow Koreans to read more

Tue May 24, 2016 9:17pm EDT
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By Jee Heun Kahng

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean author Han Kang, whose novel "The Vegetarian" had sold just 20,000 copies in her home country before it became a candidate for Britain's prestigious Man Booker International Prize, urged Koreans on Tuesday to read more.

Han won the prize for fiction last week with the novel, a dark, surreal story about a woman who gives up eating meat and seeks to become a tree.

"There are many writers whom I like and respect, who are quietly, silently writing in their rooms. I hope that you read them as well," the soft-spoken Han, 45, told a news conference, her first back home since winning the award in London.

Han, a creative writing instructor in Seoul who shared the prize with the British woman who translated the book, Deborah Smith, has been catapulted to literary stardom with the win.

While relatively few Korean novels have been big sellers overseas, the country's cultural exports, from music and movies to cosmetics and food, are creating a global buzz.

"The Vegetarian" sold about 20,000 copies in Korean from its 2007 publication to early this year, before its inclusion on the long list for the Booker International Prize, awarded to a work of fiction translated into English and published in Britain.

A total of 462,000 copies in Korean had been printed as of Tuesday, Changbi Publishers said.

"I am overwhelmed. I had thought the previous 20,000 copies sold was good enough. I am thankful to everyone who is reading my books," said Han.   Continued...

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize for fiction, South Korean author Han Kang, attends a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji