Photo credit: © (copyright) Yoichi Nagano
Proceeding the 90’s Free Paper era, Seoul’s mainstream publication houses were primarily focusing their attention on numerous domestic magazines and licensed magazines from abroad. Yet many of these publishing companies supported by large corporations or private sponsors did very little to make a lasting impression on Seoul’s artistic community. And so the year 2000 ushered in a new movement, headed by small-scale, independent publications started to increase in number. Largely run by a small community of self-motivated individuals, there was a strong to move away from this ineffectual model. One such effort, FOIL _ IANN , is a contemporary photography magazine that resulted from a fortuitous collaboration with the Korean publishing company, IANNBOOKS and the Japanese editorial company, FOIL . This very first bilingual Asian magazine, of its kind, features new works by internationally renowned artists and is setting the aesthetic bars high in Seoul’s publishing culture.
Editor’s Note: FOIL _ IANN has since changed its title to IANN due to copyright issues. However IANN still retains the rights to IANNBOOKS and keeps FOIL as a cooperative partner.
Evil Monito catches up with Jeong Kim, the Chief Editor and Publisher of IANNBOOKS and an active participant of Seoul’s burgeoning independent publishing culture:
EM: Please introduce yourself and tell us what your responsibilities at FOIL _ IANN entail.
I’m the chief editor and publisher of FOIL _ IANN , and am responsible for everything from overall planning and selecting contributors to putting finishing design-related touches on the magazine. I also do double-duty to accomplish whatever needs to be done to get the magazine ready for actual production.
EM: What first piqued your interest in published matter?
During my fourth year in university, I did a brief internship with Samsung Publishing as an editorial designer. At that time, my dream was to become a fashion magazine director: when I’d first discovered the work of Britain’s Harper’s Bazaar and their chief editor, Liz Tilberis’ work, I’d resolved to go overseas to realize that end. My present position and involvement with an art photography magazine [isn’t exactly what I’d aimed for], but it does make me feel my previous ambition’s been realized in its own way.
EM: What prompted thoughts of going into publishing yourself?
A fortuitous encounter with Tokyo FOIL ’s representative, Masakazu Takei, gave me opportunity to hear many personal stories about book-making and publishing. I’d already had aspirations to get into the industry even before that chance meeting; making that connection, though, allowed me to sidestep the risks of attempting to publish alone. Working collaboratively [with FOIL ] instead of striking out on my own lent me more courage in the endeavor, too.
EM: What similarities and differences do you see between the late 90’s/early 2000’s period of publishing prosperity and today’s small, independent publishing movement?
Publishing in today’s environment has become more targeted. In the past, it seemed that a magazine’s format did not serve to advance a mutual understanding between the publication and its readership, but was instead dictated by the formats employed by writers. Magazines now take aim at diverse enthusiast-groups by structuring themselves strategically. They’re becoming better equipped to specialize, which is a welcome change, in my opinion.
EM: In Korea, distribution – apart from large bookstores/-sellers – must be a challenge. What circulation strategy do you employ at Foil_Iann ?
We employ the usual circulation/distribution strategy. In practice, putting out any book – apart from technical publications – at or through venues other than the large bookstores in Korea is very difficult. When the situation is such that neither consumers of specialized publications nor bookshops carrying such print matter exists, we must build our readership, by using the Internet as an online resource to introduce and advertise our magazine.
EM: What goal(s) did you have when you started this publication? How does your current objective(s) compare?
Though our original priority was focusing on and capturing the niche photography market in Korea, we soon found that we actually needed a firmer apprehension of the Japanese market. In surveying photography magazines from all over the world, we recognized how imperative it was that FOIL _ IANN represent a distinct perspective and approach [to this particular aesthetic.] Basically, the founding of our magazine was driven by the need for a photography magazine that would represent Asia.
Photo of: Jeong Kim of IANNBOOKS and Masakazu Takei of Tokyo’s FOIL
EM: What purpose does your magazine’s being produced in Korea – and specifically, in Seoul – serve?
That’s a bit complicated…. Though I’d heard Korean publishing enterprise has been struggling, I didn’t realize just how narrow and limited the circulation and bookselling network was. In Japan, everything from publishing oversight to circulation and sales is highly systematized, and it’s possible to find distribution at a variety of bookstores. On the flip side, there aren’t many circulation/distribution alternatives to the handful of large bookstores in Korea.
EM: Is it true that FOIL _ IANN was created in collaboration with Japanese editors? And, with your chief editors’ generally being in England, did production move smoothly? What do you make of working in such manner?
I essentially “lived” in Japan during the time the magazine was being put together. The Japanese editors’ work, in terms of approach and output, was incredibly meticulous and precise. The exchange of ideas and perspectives that occurred throughout the editing and design processes and the editors’ know-how was very instructive, and made me feel keenly the value of such work ethics and close cooperation with globally-conscious contributors.
EM: Since your first issue, what has been the current response to the magazine?
Reactions to our premiere issue were quite excellent. First of all, photography-savvy authors seemed impressed by our magazine’s [comparatively] unique content and style. The number of copies we’re selling is steadily growing, but what’s more important is that we continue to build [our readership’s] confidence and faith in FOIL _ IANN with our next issue.
Interview conducted by: Hong Suk Woo (Seoul’s sartorial tastemaker and Fashion journalist, GQ Korea)
Translated by: E. Tae Cha (EM Managing Editor)