Poets, Authors Dragged out of Seoul International Book Fair

Presidential security removed protesting writers.

Poets, Authors Dragged out of Seoul International Book Fair

Photo: Poet Song Gyeong-dong, holding a sign that says "We will not be silent", is dragged out of the Seoul International Book Fair.  Credit: Office of the President.

On June 14, South Korea held its largest literary event, the Seoul International Book Fair 서울국제도서전, at the COEX convention center. After being scaled down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2023 SIBF was the second full-sized event since 2020, with press attention and attendance likewise returning to pre-pandemic levels. The SIBF’s first day, however, was marred by protests and physical confrontations.

Many attendees protested the fact that one of SIBF’s six promotional ambassadors was novelist O Jeong-hee 오정희. Although O is a leading figure in South Korea’s feminist literature of the 1980s and 90s, she is most recently known as the most active collaborator in the Park Geun-hye 박근혜 administration’s efforts to build a blacklist of artists and authors who were considered leftist and cut them off from public exhibitions and government funding.

Several authors, including sci-fi author Jeong Bora 정보라 (best known for her novel Cursed Bunny 저주토끼) and poet Song Gyeong-dong 송경동, staged a protest against O’s selection on the SIBF’s opening day. The protesting authors were physically dragged out of the convention when First Lady Kim Geon-hee 김건희 영부인 arrived at the venue. The presidential security detail also pushed the journalists covering the event out of the hall, claiming that only the presidential press pool was allowed to cover an event involving the First Lady. O resigned from her post the day after the scuffle.

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