Korean Fantasy/Romance Novels - Why don’t they ever get licensed?



  • There are many nice korean novels out there, like A Capable Maid, Dr. Elise: The Royal Lady with the Lamp, The Monster Duchess and Contract Princess, The Villain’s Savior and Suddenly Became A Princess One Day to name just a few. But until now, there hasn’t been an english publishing company, who licensed such korean novels. The only way we can read them is waiting for fan translations to appear.
    I honestly think it is quite sad, that we probably never get a chance to read them officially...
    It would be awesome, if for example J-Novel Club would decide to license korean novels too (provided they can hire korean translators and make connections with korean publishers first).
    Anyway, I just think it’s really sad, that we miss many great stories like this. I hope someday a publisher will license korean fantasy/romance novels.


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    I agree that there are Korean novels worthy of translation , but my understanding was that one of the reasons JNC focuses on Japanese novels is that Sam is fluent in Japanese-English translation so can assess the work of current and potential employees, read books in the original Japanese and negotiate with Japanese companies. He also has contacts within Japan which he has built up over the years. Moving into a different language and country would therefore be a huge undertaking rather than a natural extension



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    @caramelwithoutthesalt said in Korean Fantasy/Romance Novels - Why don’t they ever get licensed?:

    How long before we ask JNC about licensing our own light novels?

    I can’t remember where but somewhere on these forums that topic already exists...


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    I don't get the impression that @Claire-Lilly necessarily thinks JNC should do the work (but that it would be nice) more of a lament that no one seems to be doing what JNC is doing for Korean/Chinese light novels.

    once some company enters into a license agreement, and can translate one of/several of these Korean novels, I see no reason why they wouldn't compete favorably in the English speaking marketplace (as @Shiny said the expertise isn't likely to be at JNC currently)

    I could envision a joint marketing partnership or something


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    The thing is most Chinese or Korean "light novels" that I know of aren't even published in their home countries. They are just basically web novels. I'm sure there are legit published LNs there, but I personally don't know about any. Like I know there are some Chinese novels available officially in English, but none of them are available in volume form on Amazon or other stores.


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    Hmmm, first of all I always imagined J-Novel club stand for Japanese Novel Club. But not matter what there are various reasons.

    First of all the licensing procedure is surely vastly different. It is easie for Sam to get licenses in Japan due to him working already with companies there. Also I get the feeling that the Korean market for novels is relatively closed. I don't see much works from Korean authors internationally (except some well known authors).

    Same with chinese books. There is particularly one problem as one big company owns the rights to many translations of LN and offers those on their website for members. So the licenses are already taken. And as they always aquire more novels it is hard to get a foot in there.

    Also why should a company who specialices in translating from japanese to english make a new sub company for translating from korean/chinese/whatever to english? How many translators do you think work for JNC which are fluent in more than one asian language?

    And then we have solely from the japanese market suh a diversity of books and stories that we have here only a promille of them. So no need to look at other countries.

    I get you as I would also like an official translation of Dungeon Defense etc. But to be realistic it would be like asking Ferrari to change from sports cars to station wagons. Those are not their normal field.


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    @saskir said in Korean Fantasy/Romance Novels - Why don’t they ever get licensed?:

    Also why should a company who specialices in translating from japanese to english make a new sub company for translating from korean/chinese/whatever to english?

    Because they think that Korean and Chinese works would appeal to the same audience as the Japanese works they're currently bringing over.

    How many translators do you think work for JNC which are fluent in more than one asian language?

    Few or none. But once business deals are in place, the rest of the publishing pipeline should be the same regardless of language; it's just a matter of staffing up the appropriate translators.


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    @hamsterexastris
    Except that contract and copywriting laws may not be the same. That being said, I look forward to KNC, a division of NC Global Inc.

    (The model of JNC is solid, I hope it translates to Korean and Chinese and Swahili and whatever else)


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    @hamsterexastris Japanese LN and chinese works are mostly different. Atleast you don't have so many Wuxia Novels. Although the most chinese Novels I read always reminds me of DBZ. Get stronger, strongest, new Enemy, get even stronger, new even stronger enemy, etc.



  • I'm piggybacking off this thread to throw another voice of support being licensing Korean properties. Yes, it's an entirely separate language and legal system, but for the most part it's the same consumer base. The Crunchyroll-backed Tower of God anime is the top liked or "hearted" animated series on anichart.net for the Spring 2020 season that isn't a sequel, so it not being Japanese sure doesn't seem to be putting consumers off much.

    With Yen Press being owned by Kadokawa now, and Vertical being bought by Kodansha, (Viz of course is Shueisha/Shogakukan), there's really very few "otaku" publishers left that are probably even willing to risk increasing the market share of Korean IP at all. Dark Horse gave manhwa a small, limited trial maybe ten or fifteen years ago, back when publishers were still wary of publishing Japanese light novels, back when Haruhi Suzumiya and Spice & Wolf had not yet proved that light novels could succeed in an English-language market. Even Seven Seas' monthly survey specifically states that they're looking for Japanese titles.

    I know Dungeon Defense is one of the more oft-requested isekai titles out there. The other series on that particular title's fan-translator's site are also quite good (I'm in mid-volume 4 of "Handholding", a.k.a. We Should Have Slept While Only Holding Hands, And Yet?!, and let me tell you, those smiles on the covers of that rom-com are lies; everyone's miserable right now and it's...they're...they're just great, excellent writing). I know there's other good Korean series out there. Anecdotally, it seems like the writing styles are somewhat more comparable to English than Japanese or Chinese? Maybe that's just me? Or maybe it's that I'm comparing the currently-unlicensed cream of the Korean crop to the dregs of the plethora of Japanese light novels.

    Someone is eventually going to manage to "open" this trade route, and whoever it is will have the lead on bringing pop culture entertainment over from a nation with roughly 2/3rds the number of 15-25 year olds as Japan. Sure, it won't be easy. But it is doable, the supply and demand are both there. All it takes is the willingness and publishing know-how to make it happen.



  • There a some korean web novels licensed in English on platforms like Webnovel and Tapas but compared to their other titles they only make up a small part of their lineup. What one of the issues might be is the format.


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    @Claire-Lilly I could see MDZS / The Untamed getting licensed by a big publisher (it's available on WebNovels iirc but not 100% quality) - it has the big brand awareness, manhua, anime, live action drama, audio drama, etc that comes with it. I'm assuming they're waiting on someone to pay the huge licensing fee that they're probably having for it.

    Of course, this is a Chinese webnovel which has a different sphere & fandom.

    For Korean stuff, they barely even have stuff transitioned from webtoon to print. The only one that I can think of is Tappytoon's kickstarters for a webtoon with a creator who has work published in English previously. Yen Press & Netcomics also has manhwa, but I'm not sure if they have a huge following, which affects the possibility of novels getting brought over. There isn't a push for Korean stuff, because everyone interested in that type of media from them is into kpop, kdrama, etc which makes more money and less translation overall if you think about it (subs are super low paid or unpaid in some cases like with Viki).

    I'm sure there's an audience, but would it be a big enough paying audience to make it worth it like Japanese LNs?


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    There is also the fact that there are no publishers in S Korea picking up these WN's and putting them to paper. There aren't a lot of people who are willing to put the businesses they own/run at risk by opening up a whole new market with NO proven viability anywhere else.
    Even JP light novels were mostly ignored in the EN sphere, with a few exeptions, until recently.

    If you want them that much talk with the FT who is doing it and see if you can get a company started with them.


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