Yesterday, leading Korean publishing house Sigongsa published an official apology. The apology concerned the release of a new two-volume translation of Umberto Eco‘s “Introduction to the Middle Ages“.
The publisher announced that they would hold a special event – a writing competition whose prize included copies of the Middle Ages translation as well as the opportunity to write an all-expenses-paid book review. Women need not apply.
As soon as the event was published, female aficionados of Eco, Middle Age history, and of Sigongsa demanded an explanation regarding their discriminative attitude – what’s the link between Umberto Eco and misogyny?
Sinagong is a highly influential and well-reputed publishing house in South Korea whose range includes both domestic and international authors. They publish translations of many famous foreign authors’ works, including Fifty Shades of Grey, British magazine Cereal, Ito Junji’s horror comics, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, the John Grisham collection, and a series of classics by Jane Austen, Cervantes, Dumas, Goethe, Saint-Exupéry, Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf.
The unforeseen attack took the publisher and marketing team by surprise, apparently, to which they published an official apology. But something about this isn’t quite right either.
Hello, I’m the Sigongsa employee in charge of the “Men, Otakus of the Middle Ages”event. I was wondering why I kept on getting Twitter alerts after coming home, so I logged on to see an endless number of RTs.
First of all, there is a lot of controversy regarding why I restricted the event to men only.
I apologise for not having thought it through.
The theme to Volume 2 of “Middle Ages” was cathedrals, cities and knights. […] I narrowed down the main theme of our publicity campaign to “Male Elegance”. I’ve also been preparing a seminar with the eponymous title and have already spoken to Mr. Eco about it.
As the marketer in charge, I conducted a lot of research online with the keyword ‘Middle Ages’. I saw that many people who are interested in history, games, and fiction had posted lots of information about the Middles Ages.
There was a lot of information, and even a good deal of expert information, so it surprised me. I thought that most of the posts had been written by men (this could be a mistake or prejudice on my part…) […]
However, I would like to emphasise that this is not a gender-discriminative event in any way, as people claim on Twitter […]
The marketer does not state anywhere whether he knew the actual identity of the writers. He simple assumes that they are men. The ‘apology’ backfired and caused even more controversy than the event itself, to which the publisher reacted by simply deleting the apology.
Here are some of the RTs, retrieved December 30th, 16:00 CET.
As of December 30th, the initial apology posted on Naver Blog has been retracted, and the company has issued no further comments. Many fans of Umberto Eco and Sigongsa’s works have announced a boycott on all their publications, which also include a popular travel guide section and children’s comics. The angry RTs on Twitter continue…