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Reproduced copy of Hunminjeongeum Haerye makes bestseller list despite hefty price

Reproduced copy of Hunminjeongeum Haerye makes bestseller list despite hefty price

Posted October. 20, 2015 07:27,   


Reproduced copies of Hunminjeongeum Haerye (explanations and examples of the correct/proper sounds for the instruction of the people) is becoming a hot topic of conversation at bookstores lately.

The reproduced copy of the national treasure No. 70, which has been printed in a form most similar to the original, is gaining "unlikely" popularity among ordinary readers since its release on October 9.

The book, whose publication was planned by Kansong Art and Culture Foundation, ranked fourth (23rd overall in all different genres of books) in the humanities category of the bestseller list in the second week of October. It has sold nearly 2,000 copies through Monday. The book is composed as a set of replicated copy of the original book (66 pages) and its manual entitled Hunminjeongeum Haerye – the Birth and History of Hangeul (264 pages), and costs 250,000 won (222 U.S. dollars) per set. In the Korean publishing market where an individual book costing about 10,000 won (nine dollars) does not sell well, the popularity of costly Haerye is quite unusual.

Kyobo Bookstore in charge of producing the reproduced book has also been surprised. The bookstore and the publisher expected the book will only be sold to organizations including public libraries and schools for educational purpose, because it is so expensive. According to Kyobo, major buyers of the book are males in their 40s and 50s, including men in their 40s (17.2 percent), men in their 50s (23.3 percent), and men in their 60s (19.1 percent).

As for the reason they bought the book, they said “I want to keep a copy at home.” The value of the book for ‘collection’ or ‘decoration,’ rather than educational purpose, stimulated their desire to buy the book. The reproduced copy has reinstated even the feel of paper in the original book, whose color tone has tarnished, and the conditions of original pages that have been tainted and torn off. As in the original, the copy has also been made into book through ‘bookmaking in sack shape’ in which sheets are folded in half and bound through the ‘four-hole bookbinding’ method by binding it with strings through four holes.

Some analysts say that robust sale of the book was affected by statement by a man who is said to possess "Hunminjeongeum Haerye Sangju edition," which is considered to be the National Treasure level in value. He reportedly stated, “The Sangju edition is valued at 1 trillion won (890 million US dollars). If the state pays me 100 billion won (89 million dollars), I will immediately give the Sangju edition to the state,” sparking controversy.

However, as the reproduced copy of the book has gained increasingly more popularity, consumers criticize that they are excessively overpriced. “They say the book has been published with the aim of promoting the value of Hangeul, and 250,000 won (222 dollars) seems to be too hefty a price, said Kim, a 40-year-old office worker. "I wanted to buy one set, but I decided to give up due to high cost.” However, as it has been revealed that the book has been published with support from the government, watchers claim that the price should be lowered.

On this issue, a source at the Korean language policy division under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said, “It is right that the book was published with support from the government, but the government did not provide financial support. The government only allowed the publisher to use the ministry as a name sponsor.” Kyobo said the book has been made only with hanji (traditional Korean paper) supplied from Jeonju, and produced manually, and thus costs 120,000 won (106 dollars) in production alone, and considering marketing and labor costs, the price is hardly expensive.

As more consumers seek to buy the book despite its hefty price, Kyobo is considering publishing and sale of a replicated edition so that ordinary people can have the book. “We are seeking to find a way to produce the book at an affordable cost even by reducing details of contents in the reproduced copy,” said Shin Dae-seop, manager at Kyobo’s contents business division.