The new face of Paju Bookcity

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The new face of Paju Bookcity


Kim Eoun-ho shares with the JoongAng Ilbo his vision for Paju Bookcity for the coming three years. By Park Jong-keun

Along with his signature gray hair and black-framed glasses, Kim Eoun-ho came to the interview with a camera. Kim, the president of publishing house Hangilsa, has been photographing authors, readers, editors or just about anyone related to the publishing business.

With the 69-year-old’s apparent passion for books, he was inaugurated as the chairman of Paju Bookcity in Paju, Gyeonggi, earlier this month. Paju Bookcity is a cluster of some 130 publishing houses and printing houses, and Kim will be in charge of developing the vision for the future of the facilities over the next three years.

So what’s on the mind of the man who has spent 37 years in the publishing industry? The JoongAng Ilbo sat down with him a day after his inauguration.

Q. Paju Bookcity celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. How does that make you feel?

A.I am thankful that the facilities have developed over the years. It was only possible due to the support from various groups in the societies. I’d like to think that the past 10 years has been the time in which the Paju Bookcity has gained experience. Over the next 10 years, it will have to make a further advancement based on that experience.

What exactly do you plan to do?

Usually people think that Paju Bookcity is just a place where publishing houses and printing houses exist. But I’d like to go beyond that.

I want to make a “culture complex” for cultural content. I envision the place will be where intellectual, cultural and artistic debates emerge and intriguing culture programs take place - like a campus for knowledge.

Do you mean a campus like a university campus?

Yes. I hope to see students from all across the country at Paju Bookcity. Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang is not the only place they should go. [The temple is often where students go for a field trip.] If they come to Paju Bookcity, they will harmonize with nature surrounding the facilities and converse with the authors. Few things are better for healing minds than nature and books.

How would you do that? Do you have specific plans?

For starters I have signed an MOU with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and I hope to sign similar agreements with other local administrative governments soon. Through such agreements, I’d initiate a book-reading campaign across the country. Paju Bookcity will also help the government plan knowledge-related events and programs. The country’s major publishers are gathered here, so we are the most competitive in terms of knowledge.

Paju Bookcity always feels empty and deserted.

That’s true to some extent. Besides publishing houses and printing houses, there are some 50 libraries and alleys filled with book stores. Nonetheless, we still lack convenience facilities for our visitors. We plan to increase the number of museums, art galleries and art shops, and also host exhibitions and concerts inspired by books or related to books. We are also considering making our annual book festival into a yearlong program.

You sound very ambitious.

Bookcity is not just a “book city.” It’s a culture community campaign. In Tokyo, there is a famous road of old book stores. It’s a fascinating place for culture lovers. How come we don’t have such a place? Paju Bookcity also hopes to give such a fascinating experience to people. Planning a future without any basis in the liberal arts is meaningless. All imagination starts from a book.

By Lee Eun-ju []

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