Copyright, a right exclusively granted to authors based on the originality of their work, is an essential institution for the establishment of modern literature. As a basic right guaranteeing the existence of professional writers of modern literature, copyright is quintessential to the status of authors as actors of modern literature. Writers in colonial Korea lacked a clear grasp of the modern yet discriminatory political systems of copyright and publication law. Under circumstances demanding self-censorship, writers were unable to actively demand copyright protection, as they lacked pride in their work and sold it at low prices as a way out of poverty. Under colonial rule, the importance of a writer’s economic rights through acknowledging the originality of their literary work was overlooked, while pangwon (publication right) was universally used by publishers as an exclusive sales right for publication. The social status of writers was established through social developments that secured revenue for authors, such as the establishment of standards for manuscript rates and restrictive royalty payments. However, since “copyright” was not politically, economically, or legally guaranteed throughout the development of modern literature, writers had to find solace in the idea that members of their profession inevitably had to endure poverty. Under colonial rule, the importance of a writer’s economic rights, enabled by acknowledging the originality of their literary work, was overlooked, while pangwon (publication right) was universally used by publishers as an exclusive right for publication. The social status of writers was established through social developments which secured revenue for authors, such as the establishment of standards for manuscript rates and for restrictive royalty payments. However, since “copyright” was not politically, economically, or legally guaranteed throughout the development of modern literature, writers had to find solace in the idea that the members of their profession inevitably had to endure poverty.
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