Kim Dong Publishers: Fifty Years On

Vietnamese children of the 60s remember the exciting books that they used to read during their childhood published by the Kim Dong Publishers. Today, many of them enjoy looking in bookstores at the colorful, bright covers of books published by Kim Dong Publishers, recalling old memories or simply buying them as gifts for their children or grandchildren.

 
Nguyen Nhat Anh, author of Kaleidoscope, a favorite novel of teenage readers, published by the publisher

Fifty years ago, on June 17 1957, the Kim Dong Publishers was established and the publication of eight book titles marked the event. From that day on, Kim Dong has developed and transformed into a leading publishing house, publishing books for children nationwide.

Their growth has not been smooth however; in the early 90s shortly after the country had opened it’s doors to the world, under the open-door policy, things changed rapidly and authors of children’s books were not prepared for the change. There was a dark time when the operation of Kim Dong Publishers came to a standstill as writers of children books struggled to compete with the readers’ new requirements and expectations.

Another reason for the stagnancy was that many children’s storybooks used to be translated from Russian origins and these Russian sources were dwindling; no longer did small children want to read about tales from the past but instead they wanted new stories based in the present and future.

Kim Dong’s Board of Directors made a strategic decision to publish a Vietnamese language edition of a series of Japanese comic books (Manga) named “Doremon”, which brought a considerable profit to the publishers by selling a maximum of 300 thousand copies a week. This turned out to be the biggest event for the publishing industry of Viet Nam and paved the way for Kim Dong’s sustainable long-term growth.

At the time, the publication of Doremon was a controversial issue; many people blamed Kim Dongs decision for triggering off an interest in exotic culture, which parents in Viet Nam blamed for the boom in Japanese comics of all kinds, especially violent and pornographic manga. Today however, no one can deny the positive contribution of Doremon comics to the development of children’s literature in Viet Nam thanks to the comics’ witty contents suitable for the psychological development of children and teenagers.

The year 2004 was the turning point of the publishing industry in Viet Nam when on October 26, Vietnam officially became of one of the signatories of the Berne Convention, and the Kim Dong Publishing House became the first to abide by the Convention’s commitments by purchasing copyrights of local and international authors’ works.

Today, Kim Dong not only publishes books for children but also for teenagers. They publish books in various forms, from short stories to novels, poems, comics and reference books. The publishing house also exports folk Vietnamese comics worldwide in Thai, English and French.

According to a recent statistical report by the publishing house, since the date of establishment, Kim Dong has published over 15,000 book titles of all kinds with the total amount of printed copies reaching 300 million. On Average, Kim Dong publishes 300 book titles per year.  

“Striving for growth whilst always caring about the welfare of the community” is the motto of Kim Dong Publishers. In 1996, it founded the Doremon Fund to give support to education activities.  For the past 10 years, the Doremon fund has given scholarships to 4,683 underprivileged students and pupils worth a total of over VND 2.34 billion. Many bookcases (mini libraries) have also been set up in primary and junior high schools in remote areas to bring knowledge to pupils and students there. 

By Tuong Vy – Translated by Phuong Lan

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