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We Don’t Like Boring Books

Posted April. 20, 2005 23:16,   


Korean university students read novels rather than books on liberal arts or social science.

Dong-a Ilbo analyzed the rental records of 14 university libraries – including Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University, Pusan National University, and Kyoungpook National University – from 2000 to 2004 and found only one liberal and social science book ranked within the 20 most frequently rented books.

All the other 19 books were novels, with as many as 13 fantasy/chivalry/mystery novels. This indicates that Korean university students have a heavily unbalanced reading habit.

“Mookhyang” by Jeon Dong-jo, a fantasy that gained explosive popularity when serially published over the Internet, ranked first on the book rental list of 14 universities. The story is about Mookhyang, who becomes the greatest martial arts master and conquers the fantasy world.

The only liberal and social science book that made it on the list was Nanami Shiono’s “Res Gestae Populi Romani,” which reinterprets the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from a modern perspective. The way the story unravels is as exciting as novels. Experts say the fact that Shiono’s book ranked high on the list reflects the university students’ preference for an easy and fun to read.

Sohachi Yamaoka’s “Tokugawa Ieyasu,” a Japanese equivalent of Korea’s “Samgukji” (the Chinese history of three dynasties), and other Japanese books notably did well on the list.

On the annual book rental list of 14 universities in 2000 to 2003, only two or three books from Japan made it into the top 20. However, five Japanese books made the 2004 list, which are: “Res Gestae Populi Romani,” “Tokugawa Ieyasu,” “Between Calm and Passion,” “Twinkle Twinkle” (the two books by Kaori Ekuni), and “Kitchen” by Banana Yoshimoto.

Another thing to note is that some non-fiction books that made it big on the offline publishing market, such as “Early Morning Men” by Hiroshi Saisho and “Anger” by Thich Nhat Hanh, did not make it on the list.

Publisher Ecolivre’s executive Park Jae-hwan, concerning the list, said, “The university library rental list generally reflects the young people’s disinterest toward social issues.”