Sweden’s promotion of Korean lit continues on
Newly appointed Swedish Ambassador Lars Danielsson has inherited a major task from his predecessor: the Seoul Literature Society.
Founded in 2006 by former Swedish Ambassador Lars Vargo, the Seoul Literature Society has become renowned for introducing foreign diplomats and ambassadors to modern Korean literature and providing a venue for foreign officials to meet some of the country’s most influential authors.
Many participants say the former ambassador’s knowledge of East Asian literature, and his own talent in composing Japanese haiku, made him an invaluable guide and interlocutor to Korean literature.
The 26th meeting of the Seoul Literature Society took place on Nov. 9 at the Museum of Korea Literature in Seoul. The special guest was Oh Jung-hee, author of the stories “Chinatown” and “Spirit on the Wind.” In 2008, Oh was awarded the LiBeraturpreis in Germany, a prize for female novelists in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“I guess most of you didn’t read my novels, so let me tell you about how the Korean War affected my writing, although I’m not known for writing war literature,” Oh said. “
In “Chinatown,” Oh described the devastated lives of women living in Incheon’s Chinatown in the aftermath of the war, including prostitutes and homeless children, through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl.
Ambassador Danielsson asked Oh if she has her own specific style in writing about the war as a female novelist.
“In Korean modern literature, writing about war was a job for male novelists, who vividly depicted battlefield scenes or the politics related to war,” Oh responded. “However, since novelist Park Wan-suh’s debut, female novelists started to write about their bitter war experiences from their own points of view, not by describing battlefields but the lives of women suffering from the war.”
Bak Hyun-jung, an official at the Swedish Embassy in Seoul said, “This 26th meeting was the ambassador’s first time to attend the event. Among several candidates, he was elected to be the chairman of the society.”
By Kim Hee-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]