The History of the Youlhwadang

Youlhwadang, Sungyojang, Gangneung, Korea. Photo by Joo Myung-duck, 1980.

In Gangneung, a beautiful city on the east coast of the Korean peninsula, there stands an elegant, traditional residence called Sungyojang (船橋莊). The representative of the publisher was born in this old residence of the Joseon period and grew up there. The Youlhwadang Publisher is named from the sarangchae (the men s part of a house) of this residence, Youlhwadang (悅話堂). Many scholars have come together in this building which was founded in 1815, to discuss and pursue truth since then. In this building which preserves precious classical books, paintings and literature, there were printed collections of writings by family members of Sungyojang, their genealogy, and textbooks containing the teachings of ancient sages. In the early 20th century, a new educational institution called Dongjin Hakgyo (東進學校) was established in it, becoming a historical center of learning and education. Like the meaning of the word Youlhwadang, intimate people come together and talk affectionately with each other, this building was a center for the preservation of traditional Korean culture and a spirit of discussion. The Youlhwadang Publisher which took root in such a spirit seeks to lay a new foundation for publishing culture based on its history of nearly two hundred years.

For Arts with Beautiful Spirits

Youlhwadang Publishers, Paju Bookcity, Korea. Photo by Jonathan Lovekin, 2009.

It was in 1971, when Youlhwadang plunged into the then still young publishing genre of fine arts, visual media, and the traditional Korean culture. Since then, Youlhwadang has been keeping on publishing books requiring great care, yet of timeless value, with the devotion and steadfastness of a seamstress patiently completing one stitch at a time. We have defied the notion that book publishing is for fast growth and fat profits. Instead, we have operated under the mantra that book publishing is to provide a meeting place for thecreator of intellectual works (the writer) and the user (the reader), where they can connect with each other and grow together. We have endeavored to create a list of published books with solid content that we can be proud of. This book list contains some 130 books, each the product of our labor of love in the past 30 some years. As each book was born with long and painful labor, so each shines forth their beautiful spirit even more brightly. It is our wish that each of our books remains as a trusted companion for a long time to those who truly need and appreciate it. We are working hard daily to create books of literary works and arts that embody and lead our times, and that sustain the future of the Korean culture. Future will undoubtedly force us to adapt to changing times here and there, but today, some thirty years after our first baby step, we are as determined as any time to remain always true to our first calling.