The Pak Kyongni Prize was established by the Toji Cultural Foundation (chairperson, Kim Young Joo) in 2011, with financial support of Wonju City and Gangwon-do Provincial Government, to commemorate the late Pak Kyongni. The Pak Kyongni Prize is the Korea’s very first, international award for writers from around the world and every year honors one novelist of the time who has not only dedicated to upholding the virtue and raison d'être inherent in literature but made an ever-lasting impact in the literature of the world.
Previous winners include Choi In-hun (Korea, 2011), Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia, 2012), Marilynne Robinson (USA, 2013), Bernhard Schlink (Germany, 2014), Amos Oz (Israel, 2015), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Kenya, 2016), Antonio Susan Byatt (United Kingdom, 2017), and Richard Ford (USA, 2018).
Selecting a final winner of Pak Kyongni Prize takes quite a while every year. Starting in June, 2018, Candidate Recommendation Commission for Pak Kyongni Prize has gone through three phases of the assessment process for 350 writers from around the world qualified to meet the requirements of the Prize. Afterwards, the Commission narrowed down its list to 45 candidates. Then, starting in September, 2018, 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize Selection Committee (Chairperson, Kim Uchang) kept on evaluating 45 writers on a longlist and their literature works until April, 2019 and a shortlist of the five candidates was announced in this July. Shortly after, the evaluation of the shortlisted writers’ works continued for two months and Ismail Kadare was chosen as a laureate of The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize. Pak Kyongni Prize Committee
(Chairperson, Kim Young Joo) agreed to the result presented by Pak Kyongni Prize Selection Committee and Ismail Kadare was finalized as The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize winner.
Margaret Atwoon (Canada), Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), Eduardo Mendoza (Spain), Yan Lianke (China), and Ismail Kadare (Albania) were shortlisted for The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize.
Born in 1936, Albania, Ismail Kadare is a novelist, poet, and playwright. His first 1963 novel, The General of the Dead Army, the most critically acclaimed novel among many masterpieces of his works, earned him a worldwide fame. He took asylum in France in 1992 and resumed his active life again as a writer in Paris. His works have been published in 45 languages. Many in the literature say he is generally referred to as Literature Ambassador who successfully managed to pull Albania, his home country that had been ruled by foreign powers for around 2,000 years and the Stalinist communism dictatorship, thus being forgotten even in European countries for a long time, out of the oblivion of the history, with the literature power of his works. He is universally considered by critics as one of the greatest writers of our time. He was awarded Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca in 1992, Man Booker International Prize in 2005, Prince of Asturias Awards in 2009, Jerusalem Prize in 2015, and The Order of Legion of Honour in 2016.
Kim Uchang, chairperson of Pak Kyongni Prize Selection Committee, stated his impression about Ismail Kadare, saying, “Existence is the kernel of life to humans. As such, though, the life of human beings is hemmed in by a yet bigger ideological representation in terms of the reasoning of our own, the way of social understanding, and the established systems. Under these circumstances, what is the ultimate, desperate truth to life? In this perspective, works of Ismail Kadare have readers think and feel hard in the relationship with specific events of the history.”
The award ceremony of The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize will be held in Toji Cultural Centre at 11:30, October 26, sponsored by corporations and academic institution, including Maronie Books, Milim Syscon, Specs, Asiana Airlines, and Yonsei University, during 2019 Wonju Pak Kyongni Literature Festival (Oct. 5 – Oct. 29). As an award recipient, Ismail Kadare will be entitled to a prize money of 100 million Korean Won (US$ 84,000) and receive an official certificate of commendation of The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize at the ceremony, designed by a famous visual designer of Korea, Mr. An Sang-soo.
As The 2019 Pak Kyongni Prize winner, Ismail Kadare will have a wonderfully busy schedule right after his arrival in Korea and until his flight back home. He will have a press conference on Oct. 23, hold academic lectures at Future Campus and Sinchon Campus of Yonsei University respectively on Oct. 24 and Oct. 29, attend a congratulatory orchestra concert to be held at Baek-un Art Hall of Wonju City on Oct. 25, have a series of in-depth interviews, and appear in a variety of different radio and TV programs for a talk both about his life as a writer and what can engage readers.
※ Information and details about Wonju Pak Kyongni Literature Festival can be found at Toji Cultural Foundation-run website, www.tojicf.org.