How Wonju became UNESCO City of Literature
Wonju city went through approximately six years of preparation to become a City of Literature of UNESCO Creative Cities Network. As you may imagine, it was challenging to be part of UCCN, or UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Let us share with you what Wonju city did to become a family member of UNESCO City of Literature.
On November 2013, the former chairperson of Toji Cultural Foundation, Kim Young-joo, made a suggestion to Wonju city mayor that Wonju city should need to become a city of literature. At this, Wonju city mayor took her suggestion positively.
On February 2014, Culture & Art Department of Wonju city authority started drafting basic plan to become a city of literature and on April 2015, the city held discussion sessions with literature, culture, and art organizations, public and private, about the designation of becoming a city of literature.
On July 2015, the city formed a dedicated Wonju City Creative City Team and went on to establish Ordinance of City of Literature Development of Wonju with Wonju City Council.
On September 2016, the city held several discussion sessions, titled, Round-table Discussion with 100 Citizens of Wonju for Establishing Culture City Citizen Network.
On March 2017, the city held several rounds of Citizen Network Meeting to become a City of Literature. To strengthen the drive to become a city of literature, the city established Wonju Creative City Commission consisting of city-wide private and public sectors of literature, culture, art, academy, and educational organizations.
On February 2018, Wonju city was designated by Korean National Commission for UNESCO as a Preliminary City of Literature of Korea and on November 2018, the city held Wonju Creative Cities Global Forum.
On February 2019, Wonju city was finally designated by Korean National Commission for UNESCO as Recommended City of Literature of Korea to UNESCO Headquarters.
On June 2019, Wonju city submitted an entire batch of document including application to UNESCO HQ.
On 30 October 2019, UNESCO HQ posted an official notice of the designation of 66 new member cities of UCCN, UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Wonju was officially designated as City of Literature.
The following article is about a short, key description of Wonju in the literature perspective and you can find several key factors that Wonju city would like to contribute to the network.
WONJU (REPUBLIC OF KOREA)
Wonju (pop. 350,000) is the largest and the highly vibrant city of Gangwon-do Province, a borderland between South Korea and North Korea, over 45% of which are inhabitants aged under 40. Wonju was the center of culture and the capital city of Gangwon-do Province for the past 500 years (Joseon Dynasty, 1932-1910), during which Traditional Hanji crafts and publishing also thrived. As a key development strategy of local areas, the city was designated by the Korean central government to become Corporate City and Innovative City, thus increasingly attracting more and more creative people from outside Wonju.
Wonju was home to Hermit Literature, Women Literature, and Travel Literature during Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) and Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Their spirits and values have made a significant influence on writers and thinkers to this day, including Bishop Daniel Tji Hak-soun, who was an influential activist of human rights, Life Ideology, and democratic movement, Jang Il-soon, a strong advocate of Life Ideology and Social Cooperative Movement, Pak Kyongni, who wrote 20-volume epic saga, ‘Toji (Land)’, Kim Chi-ha, a poet who was a key protagonist of Korea’s democracy in the 1970s, and Kim Chung-ryeol, who is considered a great credit to the elevation of Asian philosophy. These writers and thinkers from Wonju constitute the backbone of the literature spirits of Wonju. Wonju is the birthplace of Life Ideology which led to the eventual development of Life Literature. The spirit and the value of social cooperative movement also run deep through many aspects of life of the city.
Toji Cultural Centre is widely regarded as a representative cradle of the Korean literature. Since its residency program started in 1999, Toji Cultural Centre has benefited a combined total of 1,200 writers and artists from home and abroad. The Pak Kyongni Prize, the Korea’s first and only international literature award, was established to uphold the spirit of writers and the Prize is increasingly going global every year. Pak Kyongni Literature Park, set up to commemorate the author’s spirit, annually attracts as many as 130,000 people of all ages from across Korea. In addition, a variety of programs in many organizations, public and private, are offered to citizens of all ages to promote the literature further. Some establishment projects of libraries and cultural facilities are also under way.
Wonju Writers’ Association, Wonju Woman Writers’ Association, and Picture Book City, a social cooperative active in promoting literature activities, are some representative literature organizations. Wonju One City One Book Reading Campaign is a city-wide literature activity that engages thousands of citizens each year. Every October, three representative literature events, Wonju Pak Kyongni Literature Festival, Wonju Life Literature Festival, and Wonju Picture Book Festival, are held to nurture and celebrate the literature and the literature culture with citizens.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE NETWORK
As a Creative City of Literature, Wonju envisages:
• Developing tour program on culture of peace, holding forum on culture of peace and travel literature to learn the meaning of peace, and industrializing culture of peace tourism and literature as a city located in the province close to North Korea;
• Organizing storytelling classes in libraries, building capacity of picture book publishers and supporting storytelling industrialization, establishing Village Story Centers for senior citizens to tell and record stories of village communities of the past, and setting up Creative Story Hub designed to provide working space for creators as a leading picture book city in Korea;
• Establishing and building capacity of literature cooperatives and cooperatives for traditional Hanji craft, publishing and commercializing literature works made with Hanji crafting, as a crossover creative industry project on literature and Hanji craft
• Promoting literature exchanges on Korea-Africa and Arab States and supporting the City of Literature membership joining of Africa and Arab states.
• Hosting international forums on UCCN and creative industries and sustainable development to promote sustainable urban development among member cities; and
• Expanding residency programme for writers and/or artists of cities of literature and having cities of literature engage in the recommendation of Pak Kyongni Prize candidates and the Prize conferment.