Photo: Moon Jae-in in his library. Credit: Hangilsa Corp.
Since his retirement from public life, former president Moon Jae-in 문재인 전 대통령’s presence has been felt mostly through his book recommendations. Famous for his voracious reading habits, Moon has largely refrained from commenting in public except to recommend books on his social media accounts.
His suggestions run the gamut of fiction, history and social studies, including Kim Hun 김훈’s Harbin 하얼빈 (a historical novel about independent fighter An Jung-geun 안중근), The Steel Rice Diaries 쇳밥일지 by Cheon Hyeon-u 천현우 (a collection of essays by a young dock worker) and Survival of the Friendliest by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods (a social science book on the evolutionary origins of human cooperation.) Thanks in part to Moon’s continuing popularity, each of his recommendations usually becomes an instant bestseller, earning him the nickname “guardian angel of the publishing industry 출판계의 요정”.
In a recent interview, Moon announced that he would take his bibliophilia a step further and open a bookstore near his residence in the village of Pyeongsan 평산마을, north of Busan 부산. Moon said the bookstore is intended to provide a restful space for his neighbors, who had to endure right-wing Youtubers harassing his residence with loudspeakers. (See previous coverage, “The Youtubers Who Harass Moon.”) Moon said the space could also be used to sell local farm produce, and host lectures and lessons by area Buddhist monks and porcelain artisans.
Conservatives reacted to Moon’s announcement with petty attacks. In an interview, People Power Party’s Emergency Response Committee member Kim Jong-hyeok 국민의힘 비상대책위원 김종혁 pointed to Moon’s previous statement that he wished to be a “forgotten man” upon retirement, and said: “I question whether he is living up to his words.” Columnist Lee Hyeon-jong of Munhwa Ilbo 문화일보 이현종 논설위원 likened Moon’s bookstore idea to the independent bookstores run by democracy activists in the 1970s and 80s, and wrote: “His small village would have little demand for books. Moon’s bookstore would simply serve as a base camp for his supporters to meet.”