A K to bridge Korea and the world: The state-led formulation of K-lit and its contradictions

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This study examines the activity of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI), a South Korean state agency promoting Korean literature internationally through translation. Analyzing LTI programs and participants in LTI policymaking and implementation, I advocate reconsideration of the conventional theorization of the state as either strong or weak in its control over national culture, corresponding to the degree of liberalization of market and politics. Instead, the institutional strength of the state and the marginal status-globally-of a given literature are intertwined and mutually transformative for the global formulation of a national literature. This study articulates how LTI's embeddedness in networks of domestic and international literary actors, such as translators, publishers, academics, and critics, both enables and constrains LTI policy. Based on the analysis, I argue that LTI as an intermediary formulates Korean literature with multiple components, combining the marketization of prominent writers with cultural consecration of non-commercial works, and universal literary values with nationalist cultural pride. Consequently, this study reveals the contentious nature of the state-led literary project, under which a national literature in global context is shaped collectively by actors both within and without the state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-76
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Asian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan 19

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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