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The Rise of the Exile

Peter Liptak posing with children of Namibia holding Teddy's Day

A shaky-handed signing for the children of Namibia.

by Drake Baer


All expats are exiles


“All expats are exiles,” says Peter Liptak, founder of English-language Exile Press, “I think it’s a very conscious choice on the part of most people that want to live abroad — a step way beyond traveling — to throw yourself into another culture and figure it out from the inside out.”

Founded in 2009, his publishing company is an outgrowth of that experience. He feels that by sharing languages, stories and a little vulgarity we can come to better know one another. With that in mind, he has began publishing As Much as a Rat’s Tail , a series of four books that explore Korean slang, idioms, proverbs and more. Subtitled Korean Slang, An Irreverent Look at Language within culture, the first helps you separate your dae-bak-i-da (that’s great!) from your gwang-i-da (it sucks!). And the Minnesota-born poet-copyman-publisher’s domain extends beyond lexical leanings.

On any given day, Liptak can be found in the virtual office, copywriting, working with book designers, corresponding with Indian ebook experts, or talking with animation companies, putting together interactive English-learning ebooks for the iPad. So how does it happen all at once? For Liptak, it’s about creative independence.


I wanted to explore the rest of publishing and do it on my own


“I’d written books for other companies and felt like I was getting taken advantage of by those publishers. I wanted to explore the rest of publishing and do it on my own,” Liptak says. He had written a children’s book, a collection of poetry and many others — he wanted to be in control of all of it. After two years of studying printing, typesetting, and the rest, Liptak set out upon the labyrinth of publishing.

“Books are the worst business you can get into if you’re just in it for the money, it really has to be a labor of love,” he says, waxing lyrical about the creative impulse. “It’s the same as someone who creates a piece of art, or by that same sense, somebody that builds a house: there are people who might do it to rush through, get the process done and get some money, but for me the process is about creating something that is fun or interesting and makes a difference to me, and hopefully to other people.”


Peter Liptak in Itaewon reading "As much as a Rat's Tail"

Peter and the Rat

A particular word or turn of phrase can bring people together.


Through the press, Liptak hopes to cultivate connections. A particular word or turn of phrase can bring people together. One such experience gave the new series it’s title.

Years ago, when he was hailing a cab in front of the American army base near Itaewon, a fellow foreigner was getting out. He was speaking Korean rather fluently to the driver. “Wow, you speak Korean well,” Liptak said to him, to which the stranger replied, “chui-ggo-ri mam-geum (as much as a rat’s tail),” and expression equivalent to “Oh, not so well.” Liptak was taken with the easy confidence, and has loved the phrase ever since — enough to use it as a title for a book series.


쥐꼬리만큼 – As much as a Rat’s Tail (Sooo very little!)


Every time he gets into a taxi and speaks a little Korean, the driver days, “oh, you speak Korean so well!” A modest Jui-ggo-ri mam-geum always earns a smile and bridges the cultural gap. “And instantly, we’re comrades.”


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