Lee Gil-won, second from left, president of the PEN International Korean Center, speaks during a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap
More than 300 authors from 114 countries will visit Korea next month, including former Nobel Literature Prize winners Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, for the 78th International PEN Congress.
The tourist destination of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, will host the event from Sept. 9 to 15. Under the theme of “Literature, Media, and Human Rights,” the congress will host forums, lectures and recitation of poems.
“It will be an opportunity to present Korea’s literary achievements to the world, while discussing ways to help writers fighting for freedom of speech in various countries,” said Lee Gil-won, president of the PEN International Korean Center, during a press conference in central Seoul, Wednesday.
Lee, a poet, joined Korea PEN in 1993, and was elected president in 2009. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish.
“We hope to show the global literary community that Korea has culturally matured as well, aside from political and economic transformations we have achieved since we last hosted this event,” Lee said. The event was held in Korea twice previously in 1970 and 1988.
Since the establishment of PEN International in 1921, it has promoted literature, defended the freedom of expression and developed a community of writers worldwide. There are 143 centers in 102 countries. Korean PEN was set up in 1954, immediately after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Other notable guests will include professor David R. McCann of Harvard University, author Yi Mun-yol and Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri.
An important agenda of this year’s congress is the establishment of a PEN center of writers who have defected from North Korea.
“We submitted a proposal to set up this new center at the last PEN International congress in Belgrade,” Lee said.
Kim said that he has been discussing the issue with writers who have defected from North Korea since last year. Around 20 writers living in South Korea and other countries are expected to participate.
If established, it will become the 144th center of PEN International. A vote will be held during the congress among the heads of PEN centers worldwide to approve the new center for North Korean defectors.