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[Opinion] Manuscript Fee for Writers

Posted April. 13, 2004 21:38,   


It is a quite well known fact among writers how difficult it is to survive feeding on writing. The reality is harsh enough to discourage writers; when a writer sits up all night writing, the payment for his or her each manuscript costs just 3,000 to 5,000 won. Although a writer finishes a 100 pages manuscript, the payment after taxes equals less than 500,000 won. Of course there are writers who earn billions of won from their writing, but they are scarce. Actually, the billions they receive are not big money compared to amount of effort and pain they have gone through to reach their present level of writing.

According to the “2003 Survey of Artists’ Realities” done by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 30.9 percent of 1,947 subjects reported no income related to their writing, and half of them said that their monthly incomes were less than 200,000 won. In the exclusive survey on monthly incomes for writers, 39.5 percent of respondents reported less than one million won, 26.0 percent said 1.01 million to 2.0 million won for a monthly income, 19 percent showed 2.01 million to 3.0 million won, and 15.5 percent reached over 3.01 million won as a monthly income. It was revealed in a different survey that the full time writers’ average monthly income was half of the lowest income class’s average of 567,260 won, coming in at 280,000 won.

Considering this stark reality facing writers, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced its plan to aid writers directly using a literary and artistic promotion endowment. According to the plan, the ministry will pay writers whose works are run in literary magazines: a poet will be given 100,000 won for each poem he or she gets published, and a novelist will be given 10,000 won per manuscript starting from next year. The ministry said that it would increase the amount of manuscript fee gradually. However, some from both the inner and outer literary circles have expressed their worries; how the ministry would designate ten literary magazines as endowment objects out of 175 magazines published nationwide, for example. Wouldn’t the ministry end up supporting the kinds of genres and styles that it prefers?

Around the world from East to West, most of the world’s leading literary works were born out of poverty and solitude. Let’s take a look at a few quick and easy examples; we have never heard that J.K Rolling, the writer of Harry Potter, received government aid. Sometimes money can be like a poison. So, some with insight emphasize that the following tasks should be taken care beforehand; writers’ opportunities for experiencing new culture, tax benefits for their incomes from lectures and writing, a deduction from book purchases, and medical insurance and pensions for writers. At any rate it is a sad reality that writers receive money for their manuscripts directly from the government.

Editorial writer Oh Myung-chul oscar@donga.com