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The 40-year history of the Writers’ Association of Korea

The 40-year history of the Writers’ Association of Korea

Posted September. 30, 2014 05:35,   


Lee Moon-koo (1941-2003), the writer of “Gwanchon Supil (Gwanchon Essay)," was admitted to the Department of Creative Writing of Seorabol Art College (now Chung-Ang University) in 1961. Kim Dong-ri, a writer who was a professor back then, predicted that Lee would become a rare stylist of Korean literature, surpassing other promising freshmen such as Cho Se-hee and Park Sang-ryung. The professor had an outstanding insight. Lee started his literary career in 1966 and became an important figure in Korean literature as a storyteller with a large native vocabulary. His family that was broken up because of his father who was a senior official of the pro-North Korean party and his life in the gutter led him to the way to literature embracing poor and oppressed people.

Lee is widely respected by other writers who have a different political view in the Korean literary community, which has been divided by ideology. He was respected because he participated both in the pure and participant literature as a well-connected writer and his good attitude of life resonated the literary community beyond conservative and liberal groups. When he passed away, both conservative and liberal groups held his funeral. It was the first time in the half-century in literary history.

He was one of the leaders of the Council of Writers for Freedom and Practice, which was formed for the movement to free Kim Ji-ha, a poet, in 1974. In 1999, Lee served as the head of the Association of Writers for National Literature, a new name after the enlargement of the Council of Writers for Freedom and Practice in 1987. Today, his absence seems to be all the more noted as he encompassed both conservative and liberal writers. The Writers Association of Korea, which was renamed in 2007, started communication on the 40th anniversary of its foundation. It will post writers’ thoughts on social issues on its website every Monday.

The association, which was from a group that resisted against the dictatorship, raised its voice over social issues such as the crackdown in Yongsan, workers’ protest at Ssangyong Motor, demonstrations against a naval base in Gangjeong, Jeju Island, and a movement against the construction of power lines in Miryang. Some point out its political bias. Lee Si-young, the association’s president, said in his inauguration speech in February this year, “We are neither a political group supporting a particular political party nor an irresponsible group that tolerates and remains silent about injustice and the regression of democracy.” The future direction of the 40-year-old Writers’ Association of Korea remains to be seen.