Asian Literary Magazine Debuts
By Park Chung-a
Bang Hyun-seok, writer and executive editor of the literary quarterly “Asia,” reads the first issue of the magazine at his office in Huksok-dong, southern Seoul, Thursday.
/Korea Times Photo by Park Chung-a
Against the backdrop of ever-growing cultural exchange among Asian countries, the first issue of a literary magazine _ ``Asia'' _ comprising works by writers from various Asian countries has been published. The first magazine of its kind dealing with contemporary Asian literature and Asia's pending social issues will be published quarterly.
``I believe literature is the base of a county's culture. I hope this magazine will ultimately become a base for communication among Asians and contribute to mutual understanding among us,'' said Bang Hyun-seok, a professor of creative writing at Chung-ang University and executive editor of the magazine, in an interview with The Korea Times.
Beginning his university life in the gloomy 1980s when dictatorial rule suppressed individual and cultural freedom, Bang spent over a decade in factories to experience Korean society from the bottom.
``Going into the 1990s, I began to think about what is ahead of us in the 21st century. As a writer, I thought the in-depth understanding for, and cultural solidarity among, neighboring Asian countries could be a key answer to realizing a peaceful co-existence,'' he said. ``I wanted to know not the dream of conquerors but that of the conquered _ which refers to most Asian countries like Vietnam or Korea.''
He said he wanted to gather the wisdom and imagination of those who suffered and overcame the dominance of imperialism.
``We have been educated and trained to become more familiar and accustomed to European or English literature through textbooks and various media,'' he said. ``On the contrary, although we are physically closer to Asians, we have had hardly a chance to get access to or be exposed to their literature.''
According to Bang, the writers who represent their countries' literary community and whose works reflect the social and historical context of their societies have been and will be chosen for the magazine. ``The readers will be able to know what the Asian contemporary writers are thinking of, and of their struggles with Asian identity and society,'' he said.
Published in Seoul, the 389-page magazine contains English and Korean translations for every piece of writing. Editorial board members include Kim Jae-yong, a professor at Wonkwang University, Bang Min-ho, Seoul National University professor and Tcha Sung-jai, a movie producer. Financial support from the POSCO TJ Park Foundation played a vital role in realizing the magazine's publication.
The first issue comprises short stories, essays, poems and articles by writers from South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia and Palestine.
Oda Makoto, a Japanese writer and peace activist who has consistently criticized Japan's right-wing extremists; Korean poet Kim Ji-ha, known for his resistance against military rule in the 70s; and China's representative writer Mo Yan have contributed articles on the meaning of living as a writer in Asia.
An in-depth interview and short story by the late Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who suffered 17 years imprisonment due to his outspoken and politically-charged writings against the dictatorship of the former Suharto regime, also make the magazine a worthwhile read. Although highly regarded in the West, ``Asia'' is the first domestic magazine to introduce Pramoedya here. He died last month at the age of 81, making the interview with him the first and the last.
China's novelist Wang Zhongchen has written his impressions on reading Japanese Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe's essay, `` On Living in Ambiguity in Japan.''
Bang is to distribute free about 2,000 copies of the magazine's first (summer) issue to organizations related to Korean Studies, literary professors and writers worldwide. Bang said the fall issue will focus on Central Asia and India. For more information, contact (02) 821-5055.