The London Book Fair Korea Market Focus 2014: Writing Literature after History


With Hwang Sok-yong and Kamila Shamsie; Chaired by Grace Koh.

The impact of the Korean War is still evident in present-day Korea, not least with the continued separation between North and South. What is the role of the writer in Korean society – can history be adequately represented in fiction, and what challenges do writers face, both creative and political?

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Date: 11.30-12.30, Tuesday 8 April
Venue: Whitehall Room, Earls Court

Hwang Sok-yong was born in Manchuria in 1943 and was raised in Korea after the liberation of Korea in 1945. During his teens and twenties, he wandered around in many places. Hwang fought as a soldier in the Vietnam War. He started actively publishing his writing in the 70s, which was a time when Korea was devoted to industrialization under a military anticommunist dictatorship. Far from Home and The Road to Sampo are works that deal with poverty and alienation during this industrialization period. Mr. Han’s Chronicle is about the painful history of the division of Korea. The Shadow of Arms is a reflection that sheds light on the meaning of the Vietnam War. In Jang Gilsan, whose protagonist is a seventeenth-century folk hero, Hwang depicted the resilient vitality of the “people.” This novel was initially published as a serial in a newspaper over a period of ten years during which time it enjoyed a great response from the readers. In 2000, Hwang published The Old Garden in which he engaged the democratization movement in Korea and the aftermath of the fall of socialism in Eastern Europe. Its French translation published under the title Le Vieux Jardin, was selected as “book of the year” by Le Monde in 2006. Also, he adapted Korean folk tales to modern times, to produce works such as The Guest, Shim Cheong, and Princess Bari. The central topics of these novels, which take place in East Asia and the world beyond Korea, are peace and reconciliation. Many of Hwang’s works have been translated and published in France, the US, Germany, Italy and Sweden; 56 titles of his translated works are available across 16 languages.

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