LTI Korea worries about division of two Koreas’ literature

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : Mar 6, 2019 - 13:58
  • Updated : Mar 6, 2019 - 13:58

Poet Kim Sa-in, head of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, has expressed worries about division of the literary works of North and South Korea.

His comments came as LTI Korea, a state-funded institute that aims to link Korean literature to foreign readership, announced its plans for this year, including events to promote the expansion of the boundaries of Korean literature.

Kim Sa-in, head of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, speaks during a press event in central Seoul on Tuesday. (LTI Korea)

From May 19 to 23, the institute will hold an event in Seoul, titled “Platform for Communication and Peace,” involving writers of the Korean diaspora, who will discuss division, writing and minorities, among other topics.

The institute will also hold related symposiums in Japan and China in April and May, respectively inviting local writers with Korean backgrounds.

“For the past 20 years, we have translated and published around 1,500 Korean literary works in more than 40 languages,” Kim said. “Now it is time to consider what really defines Korean literature, embracing literary works written by North Koreans and Koreans living abroad.”

“The hottest issues abroad regarding the Korean Peninsula are BTS and North Korea,” Kim said. “We should be the one that has leverage in deciding how to introduce North Korean literature to the world.”

Although interest in North Korea has been rising, Kim said that the institute has not been able to provide material on North Korean literature and culture. He is concerned that literature of the two Koreas will be divided without considering how the two countries are related. For instance, foreign institutes may publish a North Korean anthology by itself.

“Our literature would then be separated as a South Korean anthology. It would be difficult to retain the identity of Korean literature,” he said.

At the press event, LIT Korea also announced plans to turn the Seoul International Writers’ Festival into an annual event. The biennial event, held in October since 2006, promotes exchanges between local and foreign writers.

The institute plans to send 10 Korean writers and poets to the 2019 Gothenburg Book Fair in Sweden in September. The event is the second-largest book fair in Europe, following the Frankfurt Book Fair. Korea will participate in the fair as the guest country of honor, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and Sweden.

By Im Eun-byel (