What’s in a name?The Association of Writers for National Literature, a group with some 1,200 members, has decided to drop “national literature” from its name at its general meeting, to be held on Friday. The Association of Korean Writers and the Association of Writers in the Korean Language are candidates for the new name.
The association explained that it made its decision because Korean contemporary literature focuses on the lives of individuals and, under its current name, it is often mistaken as an extreme right-wing group.
The decision could be viewed as a positive change because narrow nationalism does not work in this era of globalization. However, it is suspicious if the association is changing its status along with its name. The association is politically motivated and has had a passive response to North Korea’s human rights violations and nuclear weapons program. Members of the association were opposed to the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun and the presence of our troops in Iraq, and they have taken a friendly stance toward the North Korean regime.
In 2005, South and North Korean writers held an event on Mount Baekdu to commemorate the June 15 Joint Declaration. At this event, a South Korean writer recited a poem by Kim Nam-ju, a resistance poet from the 1980s. The event shocked the nation.
Shortly after North Korea conducted a nuclear test in October last year, South Korean members of the association held an event with North Korean writers on Mount Kumgang to create the Association of Writers for National Literature.
Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that as writers of the association have risen to power in the literary world, they have begun to exert a strong influence over how the Korean Arts Council distributes funds.
South Korean writers have said that an association with a new name can be viewed as subordinate to the joint association of South and North writers. As North Korean writers are under despotic rule, this means South Korean writers could be subject to manipulation. So the association wants to drop the word “national” because it is against the current global trend, but it has voluntarily put itself into subjugation to another association with a name that bears the same implication as the one it seeks to jettison.
That’s why some say the association wants to change its name to cover its political convictions. If the association of writers wants to change its name, it should also change its fundamental characteristics.