|Visitors at this year's Seoul International Book Fair browse displayed books at COEX, southern Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Anna J. Park
The annual festivity for all book lovers in Korea has returned. The 25th annual installment of the Seoul International Book Fair is currently underway at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in southern Seoul.
Organized by the Korean Publishers Association and open since Wednesday, the five-day program has brought 430 publishing houses from over 40 countries together, as well as tens of thousands of visitors every day. The annual book fair has long provided a venue where publishers, authors, translators and avid readers come together and network, while learning about new trends in the book market in and outside Korea.
The book fair's Guest Country of Honor for this year is Hungary, as Korea and Hungary celebrate their 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties this year. Due to last month's tragic sinking of a cruise ship in Budapest that left dozens of Korean tourists dead or missing, Hungarian Ambassador to Korea Mozes Csoma delivered his condolences to the victims at the opening event of the book fair, Wednesday.
"Hungary is the first East European country that established diplomatic ties with Korea in 1989. While we were preparing for this big event, a very sad tragedy happened in Budapest recently. I am very sorry for the accident. My heart is broken," Csoma said.
"Back in 1892, the Austro-Hungarian Empire already signed a treaty of amity with the Joseon Dynasty. Hungarian scholar Barathosi Balogh Benedek traveled the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century, and he hoped Hungarians would get to know more about Korea and Korean culture. Now I have a similar hope with his. I hope more Koreans get to know Hungarian culture and its literature," he added at the opening event."
Many renowned Hungarian writers, including Imre Oravecz, Janos Lackfi and Peter Gardos, join a series of events over the weekend to talk about their works to Korean readers.
Hungary is not the only country that gets special attention this year. Commemorating Korea's 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the "Scandinavian Focus" program exhibits diverse Nordic literature and publications, and provides opportunities to the authors from the three Nordic countries. Swedish novelist Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Norwegian science fiction writer Torbjorn Overland Amundsen and Norweigian writer Ellen Stokken Dahl have joined the annual festival in Seoul.
In another special program, lectures and seminars on the theme, "Freedom to Publish," with recipients of the Prix Voltaire and the Golden Pen of Freedom Award, give visitors a chance to ponder on the matter of the defense and promotion of the freedom of publication.
|Award-winning novelist and poet Han Kang smiles during a seminar at the Seoul International Book Fair, Wednesday. Yonhap|
Man Booker International Prize winner Korean author Han Kang and high-profile actor Jung Woo-sung, who unveiled his new book on refugees, also partook in the annual festival's book talk sessions, drawing media attention.
On the sidelines of the fair, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) has hosted diverse conferences and workshops to further facilitate networks between the heart of the Korean literature market and key figures from overseas.
The "Korean Literature Showcase" was one of those events held Wednesday and Thursday during the five-day fair, inviting 10 publishers from 10 countries, including the U.S., Indonesia and Egypt. Through free discussions among participating literature critics, translators and publishers, the showcase aimed to strengthen connections between overseas publishers and members of the Korean literary circle. It also introduced how publishers collaborate with translators.
During the workshop's first session, "Introducing Korean Literature and the Publishing Market," Shin Joon-bong, a Korean journalist on literature recapped the latest trends and prevalent themes in recent local literary works. He said some major societal events have deeply influenced recent Korean literature, such as the sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014, which killed over 300 people, the majority being young students. Heightened feminist values, the MeToo movement and mass political aspiration, represented by the candlelit protests in late 2016 and early 2017 are also some of the key events in Korea that have left deep traces in recent Korean literature.
Another presenter at the workshop, poet Seo Hyo-in pointed out the clearer perception of gender disparity, and interest in female narratives as recent hallmarks of Korean literature. The success of the novel "Kim Ji-young, Born 1982" by Cho Nam-ju, not only in Korea, but also in other Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan, demonstrates readers also have a keen interest in discovering more novels written from a woman's perspective, which had been relatively unheard of during previous decades in Korean literature.
|Emma Raddatz, editorial and development Associate at Archipelago Books in the U.S., speaks at this year's Korean Literature Showcase in COEX, southern Seoul, Wednesday. Courtesy of LTI Korea|
Yoonie Lee from LTI Korea said in her presentation that so-called "K-Lit" is gaining popularity in more and more countries, but especially in Japan, with Korean authors Cho Nam-ju, Kim Young-ha and Park Min-gyu expanding their readership. She also said since the launch of the nation's literary translation institute back in 2011, she has witnessed an outstanding growth of Korean literary works in overseas markets in slightly less than a decade.
Representatives from various publishing houses, including Archipelago Books' Emma Raddatz and BACA Publishing House's Aniesah Hasan Syihab, also shared the latest trends at their companies and in publishing in their countries, deepening international cooperative perspectives among the literary circle.
The annual Seoul International Book Fair runs through Sunday or June 23 at COEX, southern Seoul.
|Tens of thousands of books are displayed by participating publishing houses at the annual Seoul International Book Fair that runs through June 23 at COEX, Seoul. Yonhap|