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[Opinion] Koreans Read the Least

Posted July. 18, 2005 03:09,   


There is another fairy tale boom - “Harry Potter.” Its sixth version, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” drew long lines in every bookstore as soon as it went on sale on July 16 across the globe. Until Harry Potter 5, 270 million copies were sold and translated into 62 languages. Yet the best seller of mankind is the Bible. Translated into 303 languages, there was an estimate a few years ago that about three billion copies were sold There may never be any book that could excel it.

The Bible is also the top book that gets stolen according to a New York Times survey on the top 10 books that are stolen from libraries. They say it is because the Bible is deemed as a necessity like soap and a first-aid kit. Or it may be that there is only a saying of “do not read the Bible by stealing a candle” and not one that warns of stealing the Bible itself. Second place was taken by mystic books like hypnosis and astrology, followed by information books on examinations and living on which one would be reluctant to spend his own money, and sex-related books which one is also reluctant to buy at a bookstore from shame.

One who sold more books than J.K. Rowling, the author of “Harry Potter,” according to records, is the former Soviet autocrat Stalin. When Stalin died in 1953, the former Soviet government announced that his books sold 672.05 million copies and had been translated into 101 languages. The content would certainly be void like communist propaganda, so if it gets revived, it is obvious that it would be no competition for “Harry Potter.”

There have been more than many in history and all around the world who have digested the information and nutrition of good books well and used them as fertilizer for their great achievements. There are also entrepreneurs who have “reading secretaries” in order to do compressed reading. As long as they can assimilate the information of copious books in the most efficient way and apply it to business, they would not be reluctant to pay the salaries of their reading secretaries. The Chinese wisdom that there is money and a stipend in a book is valid even today. People would not be reluctant to pay taxes for reading secretaries of national leaders as long as they have the attitude that they will read the flow of the international current correctly. An American survey institute reported that the time Koreans spend reading is the 30th among 30 nations. It is a worrisome last place.

Editorial Writer Kim Choong-sik, skim@donga.com