|Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae at the National Assembly meeting on July 30. / Yonhap|
KNA leader denies allegation that the statement is politically motivated
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The Korean Novelists' Association (KNA) has criticized Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae for her remarks on fiction novels during the National Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the KNA said Choo "humiliated" novelists and their work in her response to an opposition party lawmaker Rep. Yoon Han-hong when he raised suspicions that a recent reshuffle in the justice ministry was Choo's attempt to cover up her son's alleged violations of military rules.
Listening to his remarks, Choo said sarcastically, "(You're) writing a fiction novel."
Her attitude caused a stir, resulting in the committee meeting being suspended temporarily as opposition lawmakers protested against her unprofessional demeanor. Choo did not back down, criticizing the opposition lawmaker's behavior and claiming his questions were inappropriate.
"Watching her on TV, many novelists were shocked and some even felt insulted," the group said in a statement.
"The justice minister was treating fiction novels as 'lies or something like that.' We realized a tough road is ahead of Korean literature. How could she treat novels as a sort of a lie? How could the justice minister do that in public, particularly when everybody was watching her on TV and all eyes were on her? She humiliated novelists who are working hard to write stories amid tough working conditions."
The KNA compared how the two terms were different from each other, saying a lie was a deed aimed at making others believe something that is untrue, whereas fiction is a form of creative work in which the creator and readers know that the story is fictional. "Thus, unlike a lie, a fiction novel is a form of art," the statement reads.
Founded in 1974, the KNA is the only novelists' association. As of February, about 1,300 writers were affiliated with the organization.
Since it was reported on several media outlets, the KNA's statement has caused debate among internet users.
In a media interview on Friday, KNA Chairman Kim Ho-un denied the allegation that the statement was politically motivated.
He said his organization will continue cope with any politicians if and when they try to mock fiction and fiction writers.
"We had no intention to attack Minister Choo," he said in a media interview. "But we took her words seriously and thought we had to do something to prevent future misunderstandings. Previously, there were similar cases in which fiction was mocked but we didn't take any measures. After Choo, we agreed we had to issue a warning."
According to Kim, the KNA will send an open letter to UFP lawmaker Jang Je-won who made similar remarks to urge him to respect novelists. Jang wrote on social media that Justice Minister Choo allegedly tried to create a conspiracy theory by linking the UFP with a certain religious cult. "I read your fiction. It's interesting," he wrote to mock Choo's attempt to discredit the opposition party.