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Provinces Vie for Writers in Residence

Posted January. 26, 2006 03:03,   


Lee Oi-soo, a writer, moved to “Emotion Town” in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province. Until recently, he lived in Chuncheon since 1965. Lee was cited as one of the well-known people most readily associated with Chuncheon. But at age 60, he moved to a different place.

A promotional campaign by Jeong Gab-cheol, a county leader in Hwacheon, influenced Lee to move. At the news that Lee was looking for a new place to live because the area surrounding his former house in Chuncheon was too bustling in 2003, the county leader visited the writer three times and asked him to move to Hwacheon. Jeong offered Lee as many as five candidates for his new place. “He offered to build me a writing room, a study room, and an outdoor stage, so I selected the smallest but the calmest place,” Lee said.

There is a fierce competition among local autonomous governments to attract writers to their provinces.

Mayors and county leaders are making great efforts to attract high profile writers to their provinces in an attempt to enhance their “brand.”

Compared with singers and actors, writers are rarely associated with urban culture and a de-nationalized image. In addition, many feel closer to writers than to painters and musicians. Unlike one-hit-wonders, writers have an intellectual and loyal fan base. The influence of their works goes on for generations.

Officials in charge of publicity say that there is no better symbol than writers when it comes to improving the image of a region.

Jin Eui-jang, the mayor of Tongyoung, Gyeongnam, spent all of January 17 on the road. He left Tongyoung in the morning, headed to Gangwon to pick up Park Gyeong-lee, the renowned author of the novel, “The Land,” and took her to an event hosted by a group called, “People Who Love Tongyoung.” Mayor Jin received great attention when he invited Park, who has been away a long time from her hometown Tongyoung, to the province twice last year. Jo Moon-soo, an aide to the mayor, said, “I have recorded the speeches of Park Gyeong-lee and gathered information about her. When we build a culture hall, the information will be on display.”

In many parts of the county, efforts to turn the houses where writers were born and the places mentioned in books into tourist attractions are afoot. Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi plans to start the construction of a “Sudden Shower Town” in Sooreung, which is the setting of “Sudden Shower,” a popular short story.

Ki-Tae Kwon kkt@donga.com