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K-book exhibition heads to France ahead of Paris Olympics

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Poster for the exhibition

Poster for the exhibition "K-Book: The Origin of K-Culture," running in Paris, in conjunction with the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, from June 5 to Aug. 30 / Courtesy of MCST

By Park Jin-hai

In a bid to showcase Korean literature on the global stage, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) is kicking off a three-month-long Korean book promotion event coinciding with the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. Partnering with the Korea Publishers Association, the initiative will introduce over 110 Korean books to European audiences through exhibitions and author events.

This initiative mirrors the growing interest in Korean literature in France, witnessed by novelist Han Kang winning the Prix Medicis and the Emile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature and the publication of "Anthologie des poètes coréens contemporains," a collection of poetry by 100 Korean poets, in French for the first time.

Cover of 'The Disappeared Dinner' (2022) by Kwon Jung-min / Courtesy of Changbi Publishers

Cover of "The Disappeared Dinner" (2022) by Kwon Jung-min / Courtesy of Changbi Publishers

As a starter, the Korean Cultural Center in Paris is holding the exhibition "K-Book: The Origin of K-Culture," which runs from June 5 through Aug. 30. During the event, award-winning Korean picture books, Korean books published in France, online novels adapted into webtoons and dramas will be available for literature fans.

They include eight winners of the 2023 Korea Picture Book Award, such as "The Disappeared Dinner" (2022) by Kwon Jung-min and "A Round of Tightrope Walking" (2022) by Minha as well as 51 wordless picture books, such as "Lines" (2017) by Suzy Lee and "Iceberg" (2019) by Oh Sena.

Also on view are 38 books in both Korean and French translated editions, including Han's award-winning "I Do Not Bid Farewell" (2021) and Lee Seung-u's "The Song of the Earth" (2012). Some 13 books are from the category of web novels, including "What's Wrong with Secretary Kim" by Jeong Gyeong-yun, which was made into a tvN drama series of the same name in 2018, and "Semantic Error" by Jeo Soo-ri, which was adapted into a series of the same name by streaming platform Watcha in 2022.

Four Korean picture book artists, Kim Sang-keun, Oh Sena, Lee So-yung and Jung Jin-ho, will host events for local children who can engage in drawing and craft-making activities from June 11 to 13 at eight locations in Paris, including bookstores, libraries, two museums and schools.

Cover of 'Iceberg' by  Oh Sena / Courtesy of Kinderland/Bandal

Cover of "Iceberg" by Oh Sena / Courtesy of Kinderland/Bandal

A book talk event featuring Korean and French authors will be held on June 14 at the Bibliothèque Universitaire de Langues et Civilisations in France. The authors from two countries will discuss the topic of "How does the materiality of picture books enrich the narrative?" In a separate session, authors will share their thoughts on the topic of "Narrative landscapes that capture intimate emotions and relationships."

Building on this momentum, the culture ministry plans to hold a series of events at Korea House during the Paris Olympics from August 6 to 7. In October, a variety of Korean-published content and other cultural industries including music and fashion will be introduced through K-Expo France 2024.

"As global interest in Korean books has been growing and the overseas readership is expanding, we will take advantage of the Paris Olympics, which is a sports festival and cultural festival, to introduce European readers to the boundless charm of 'K-books,'" an MCST official said in a statement.

Park Jin-hai


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