Joseon Books at the Seoul International Book Fair

The Seoul International Book Fair (SIBF) (June 20th -23rd 2013) is a yearly event held at the COEX exhibition centre in Gangnam. I managed to pick up a few bargains even though our bookshelves are already cram-packed.. But you can never have too many books, right?

book fairJoseon books

The first thing that caught my eye this year was a famous series of books about various countries written in Korean in manga style. Then I found an exhibition of original printed books from the Joseon period.

Meonnara neighboring countriesmeonnara neighboring countries

Meonnara Neighboring Countries (Korea and England)

This is a very popular series of books first published back in the 80s and still going strong. The books are intended to introduce various countries to Korean children in an easy to understand way. So I thought this could be a good way for me to practise reading Korean. (The books were on sale too 😉 )

Of course the content of the books are the cartoon writer’s subjective view on history and culture, so I am interested to see how ‘England’ is presented. Apparently the book on America became quite controversial.

a page from the Meonnara Neighbouring Countries: Korea, by Lee Wonbok 


And then for something completely different we looked at the exhibition of original Joseon books printed with movable metal type. A lot of original books and documents from the Joseon period (1392-1910) were destroyed due to fires and wars etc., but since these are not hand-written books, many copies could have been printed which is probably why some have managed to survive till today.


This was the oldest book on show. It was printed in 1403, the third year of King Taejong.(r.1400 – 1418)


Here’s a page from a book printed in 1895 on how to read Chinese characters. The way to read the character is written in Hangeul under each one.


Here’s an illustrated book from 1795


Judging by the samples on show, even by the 19th century many books were still printed in Chinese characters rather than hangeul. But there was one example on show of a book printed in Hangeul in 1887.


So at this year’s book fair we really experienced books old and new!

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