The Open Books Co. (Open Books) is a rare breed in the Korean book market. The company is renowned for its high quality catalogue of contemporary European novels and poems. The intellectual appeal of its publications combined with great marketing success makes Open Books one of the most prestigious publishing houses in Korea.

Since its foundation in 1986, Open Books has published over 1500 titles of European, Russian and American literature. Open Books' catalogue includes practically every work of highly esteemed names such as Umberto Eco, Paul Auster, Patrick Süskind and Bernard Werber, as well as the complete works of classical masters like Freud, Mayakovsky, Pushkin and E.M. Forster. The Complete Works of Dostoyevsky, a newly translated and critically acclaimed 24-volume set, were published in 2000 and the Complete Works of Nikos Kazantzakis in 2008. Umberto Eco’s nonfiction works were newly edited and redesigned in a 26-volume Eco Mania Collection published in 2009.

At the forefront of literary translation from the very beginning, Open Books remains a key pioneer in introducing foreign literature to Korean readers while always striving for the highest standards of translation and book design. Its catalogue is particularly strong in contemporary French literature, with renowned authors like Amélie Nothomb, Michel Houellebecq, Maylis de Kerangal, Pierre Lemaitre, Emmanuel Carrère and Marie Darrieussecq, to name only a few.

Open Books’ collection of classics of world literature is the second largest among Korean publishers, with more than 230 volumes and counting. You may visit our Open Books World Literature page for a broad overview.

Recent projects include the publication of 12 works by Roberto Bolaño which started in 2010 and of Georges Simenon’s Maigret series as of 2011, in addition to the preparation of many other works of fiction and nonfiction.

Mimesis is the art publishing branch of Open Books, whose catalogue features a broad variety of titles about architecture, design, photography, illustration, graphic novels as well as Korean short fiction. Mimesis is also a museum, the Mimesis Art Museum, designed by Álvaro Siza and built in Paju Book City.

The Open Books Co. was founded on January 7, 1986. Its very first publication was the 7-volume edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel. Following are some of the highlights of Open Books’ editorial history:

1986 : Publication of 10 titles in 16 volumes, including Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.

1987 : Publication of 9 titles in 9 volumes.

1988 : Publication of 12 titles in 19 volumes.

1989 : Open Books wins the first Kyobo Mungo Book Design Award. Publication of 14 titles in 16 volumes, including The Mother by Maxim Gorky.

1990 : Publication of 14 titles in 17 volumes, including Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality by Nikolay Chernyshevsky.

1991 : Publication of 19 titles in 20 volumes, including Perfume by Patrick Süskind.

1992 : Open Books wins the third Kyobo Mungo Book Design Award for the artwork accompanying its edition of The Novel by James Michener. Publication of 16 titles in 20 volumes.

1993 : Open Books scores a big hit with the #1 bestseller The Ants by Bernard Werber. Publication of 22 titles in 28 volumes, including the collected works of Mayakovsky.

1994 : Bernard Werber comes to Korea to meet and greet his fans. Publication of 18 titles in 21 volumes.

1995 : Publication of 22 titles in 35 volumes, including Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster.

1996 : The Korean Writers’ Association awards Open Books as the ‘most literary publishing house.’ Mr. Sommer’s Story by Patrick Süskind is the year’s #1 bestseller. Publication of 26 titles in 27 volumes, including the award-winning Man and His Symbols by C.G. Jung and the first volumes of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud.

1997 : Publication of 28 titles in 30 volumes, including the remaining titles of the 20-volume Complete Works of Sigmund Freud.

1998 : Publication of 19 titles in 23 volumes, including the first two "grands albums" by Jean-Jacques Sempé, Ames soeurs and Par avion, marking the beginning of a large collection of Sempé books.

1999 : Publication of 33 titles in 35 volumes, including the 6-volume Collected Literary Works of Aleksandr Pushkin. Open Books receives the Pushkin Medal from the Russian government and is awarded the Baeksang Prize by the Hankook Daily for the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud.

2000 : Publication of 55 titles in 68 volumes, including the newly translated and critically acclaimed Complete Works of Dostoyevsky.

2001 : Publication of 47 titles in 55 volumes, including The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda. Open Books also starts its SF and fantasy collection with such titles as To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock.

2002 : Open Books tops the poll of a monthly literary magazine as the publisher from which Korean readers own the most titles. Open Books President Ji-Woong Hong is chosen as Publisher of the Year by the Korean Publisher’s Society. Publication of 36 titles in 44 volumes, including new editions of works by Dostoyevsky in an 18-volume paperback collection.

2003 : Publication of 56 titles in 57 volumes, including a new edition in 15 volumes of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud. Bernard Werber’s collection of stories Tree (with illustrations by Moebius) is the year’s #1 bestseller and is selected as Book of the Year by netizens and major newspapers.

2004 : Open Books publishes a 20-volume collection of original works by the most representative modern Korean poets and The Principle of Hope by Ernst Bloch in 5 volumes. Publication of 59 titles in 65 volumes, including Pierre Grimal’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

2005 : Open Books launches its fine arts publishing division Mimesis. It sees four major contemporary British authors join its catalogue: Iain M. Banks (The Wasp Factory), Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong), John le Carré (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Julian Barnes (Flaubert’s Parrot). Publication of 52 titles in 52 volumes, among which The History of World Cinema initially published by the Oxford University Press and Jean Laplanche’s The Language of Psycho-Analysis.

2006 : Launching of Open Books’ Mr. Know world literature collection. Publication of 79 titles in 89 volumes, including 30 classics in the Mr. Know Collection and the remaining titles of the E.M. Forster Collected Works. The Open Books Co. wins the Korean Institute of Architecture Award for its office building in Paju Book City.

2007 : Release of the movie Perfume, the Hollywood adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s eponymous novel, which as a result stays 4 weeks at the top of the bestseller lists. Publication of 66 titles in 73 volumes, including Bernard Werber’s Papillon des étoiles and a new edition of the 18-volume Complete Works of Dostoyevsky.

2008 : First edition of the Open Books Editorial Manual. Publication of 57 titles in 70 volumes, including the 30-volume Complete Works of Nikos Kazantzakis.

2009 : Creation of the children’s literature division Byulchunji. Publication (or re-publication) of 137 titles in 165 volumes, including the first 96 volumes of Open Books World Literature collection, the Eco Mania Collection, the Andy Warhol Diaries and Bernard Werber’s Gods trilogy.

2010 : Publication of Open Books’ first Roberto Bolaño novel, By Night in Chile, followed by three other titles. Visit of Bernard Werber as a guest of the Seoul International Book Fair. Publication of 104 titles in 121 volumes, including the Mimesis graphic novel Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. Creation of MIMESISDESIGN, an original stationery brand for book lovers.

2011 : Publication of 108 titles in 117 volumes, including the first 19 Maigret novels by Georges Simenon.

2012 : Publication of 79 titles in 86 volumes, including The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Publication in February of the 200th volume of the Open Books World Literature collection: The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht.

2013 : Publication of 55 new titles in 63 volumes, including The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz and, in fiction, notably The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and Roberto Bolaño's magnum opus 2666.

2014 : Publication (by both Open Books and Mimesis) of 71 new titles in 78 volumes, including two major classics of world literature: the first Korean translation of the late Yaşar Kemal’s İnce Memed and a new authoritative translation of Don Quixote. Miloš Urban came to Korea on the occasion of the release of his novel The Seven Churches in June and Marie Darrieussecq came to present her novel Clèves in October. Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was the no. 1 best selling book in Korea in 2014.

2015 : Publication of 63 new titles in 67 volumes, including Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon (1600 pages, published in two volumes) and the 2013 Goncourt prize winner Au revoir là-haut by Pierre Lemaitre.

2016 : Publication of 51 new titles in 52 volumes, including This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. To celebrate its 30 years of existence, Open Books also published a 12-volume anniversary limited edition of 12 of the most representative translations on its list. Bernard Werber came to Seoul in Spring to promote the final volume of his Troisième humanité trilogy.

2017 : Publication of 56 new titles in 57 volumes, as well as the “Blue Collection”, an 8-volume collection of new editions of French modern classics such as Truismes by Marie Darrieussecq and Extension du domaine de la lutte by Michel Houellebecq. Other notable publications of the year were The Sellout by Paul Beatty and On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder.

2018 : Publication of 75 new titles in 79 volumes, including translations of Erkenne die Welt and Erkenne dich selbst by Richard David Precht, Le Royaume by Emmanuel Carrère, and two new Bolaño titles (El secreto del mal and a bilingual edition of Los perros románticos). New editions of 12 classic albums by Jean-Jacques Sempé were also published.

2019 : The year started with the publication of His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, who will be a guest at the Seoul International Writers’ Festival in October. Ellen Støkken Dahl came to the Seoul International Book Fair in June to talk about her book The Wonder Down Under (co-authored with Nina Brochmann). One of the most anticipated publications for the second half of the year is Educated by Tara Westover.

Architecture and design are not only predominant subjects of publications from the Mimesis catalogue. They also play an important part in the daily life of the Open Books staff. Starting from the simple idea that an inspiring environment encourages creativity, Open Books has always tried to make its offices functional yet beautiful, comfortable yet surprising. It has also always kept in mind that buildings should be made to last and, in that sense, have a significant social role to fulfill beyond their mere function. They should be designed to fit into their urban and natural environments harmoniously for their users today, tomorrow, and a future many years from now.

Open Books’ previous office buildings reflected this philosophy and aim, and so does the building in which the company relocated in 2010, the Mimesis Art Museum in Paju Book City.

Open Books Office in Paju Book City: Mimesis Art Museum
The construction of the Mimesis Art Museum, designed by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, was completed in 2009. It is lit by natural light rather than electric lighting to make people focus more intently on the artwork. This beautiful architectural achievement is located in Paju Book City near Seoul, a new town dedicated to 21st Century publishing and architecture.

Mimesis Art Museum opened its doors to the public in 2012 and has since then been hosting various exhibitions. The annex building is used as Open Books’ office since 2014.

If you have any questions about the company and its publications, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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