Writers find rooms at Seoul Book Fair
“I think I’ll need all day to see the whole fair,” said Shin Ga-young, a high school teacher who came to the event with her friends.
“Books on Korea,” the same exhibition that was featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, has been set up once again, this time in Seoul. A special booth was there to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Ilyeon’s birth; he was the monk who authored “Samgukyusa,” or “The History of the Three Kingdoms.” But the best part is the price: It’s all free, including the seminars, book art exhibition and displays.
One popular spot in the Korean publishing section was a section of writing rooms recreated from the homes of famous Korean authors such as Ko Eun, Shin Kyung-suk, Kim Hun and Kim Yong-taek.
“Visitors were impressed to see the rooms of their favorite authors,” said Park Jong-ho, a volunteer from Korean Publishers Association who organized the room display.
The fair has also allotted a considerable amount of space to North Korean books. The organizer of the North Korean section is not from the North, of course ― it’s a South Korean publishing company that has been bringing in North Korean books since it received approval from the Culture and Unification ministries eight years ago.
Along with North Korean textbooks and magazines (mostly thin pulp paperbacks), some 50 paintings from Pyongyang are on display.
“These paintings are based on social realism, and they could look crude and rough to viewers who are used to softer, Western-style paintings,” said Lee Gi-won, a staff member at Daehun Publishing. “But they are the works of the ‘people’s artists,’ who are considered the most talented people in North Korea.”
A painting showed a mother and a young son hugging after the son’s return from a military camp. Another showed a group of soldiers in a battle. Daehun has also been screening North Korean films during the fair. The group said it had tried to choose films that are relatively not propagandistic, such as romances. When it comes to foreign books, however, the French publishing companies own the field. With this year being the 120th anniversary of the forming of diplomatic ties between Seoul and Paris, 80 French publishing companies participated (though last year’s attendance was counted in a different way, making it difficult to tell if more French publishers showed up this year). There’s bad news for English-speaking readers, though: There are no English-langauge publishers participating in the fair this year.
Asian books, however, are well represented, with publishing companies from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and India having shown up to let visitors peruse their pages.
Today and tomorrow, a workshop with the Australian children’s book author Matt Ottley is scheduled. Also, the Korean authors Jin Jung-gwon, Sohn Taek-su, Jang Yeong-ran, Kim Gwang-hwa and Gong Ji-young will come to meet their fans.
by Lee Min-a
The Seoul International Book Fair is currently being held at the Pacific and Indian halls at COEX, southern Seoul. Samseong station, line no. 2. For more information call, (02) 735-5671, or visit www.sibf.or.kr.