Bucheon’s literary tradition is strongly tied to Byun Yeongro and Chong Chi-yong, forerunners of Korean new poetry, who were active during the first half of the 20th century. Their works earned them fame across Korea, and a place in school textbooks, which the residents of Bucheon are still very proud of. The literary tradition they started was continued in children’s literature by the popular Korean author Mok Il-sina and Yang Gui-ja, author of the English-language novel A Distant and Beautiful Place, which is regarded as the Koran top literary achievement of the 1980s.
One important episode in Bucheon’s literary history is its special connection with the American Nobel Prize winning author Pearl Buck. Following the Korean War, the writer came to Bucheon to open an orphanage for children of American soldiers. Drawing on her observations and experiences she wrote a book devoted to Korea, The Living Reed. The Pearl Buck Award, founded in 2008 to commemorate her close relationship with Bucheon, will soon be broadened into international recognition for diaspora and minority literature.
Bucheon is well known in the world for its excellent network of libraries. One of its innovations is a book sharing system that was launched in 2000: every resident can order any book that will be delivered free to the library nearest to their home or, if ordered by an elderly person or one with disabilities, directly to their home. What is more, libraries are operators of educational programmes such as courses in creative writing, for which they hire lecturers and coordinators. Their responsibilities include home visits to the participating kids and advising them on their readings.
The city is famous for its initiatives in the comics and animation industries. Bucheon hosts several large festivals such as the Bucheon International Comics Festival, Bucheon International Animation Festival or Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, with conferences, seminars, and creative workshops. The Comics Festival is additionally accompanied by the International Korean Comics Market, a comics copyright business support programme of international outreach. The various other comics-related events held in Bucheon include the Global Webtoon International Conference or the Korea-China Comics Contents Forum.
Bucheon is also the organiser of several broad-based literary festivals. The largest of them, the Suju Literary Festival (named after Byun Yengro’s penname of Suju), is comprised of a poetry competition and a series of other events such as the Suju Youth Literary Contest, Suju Literary Symposium or Suju Byun Yengro Night (poetry nights featuring presentations of literary criticism). The Pearl Buck Festival is a tribute to the American Nobel-winning novelist who made a mark on Bucheon’s literary history. Two awards in her honour are important points in the festival’s agenda: the Pearl Buck Literary Award and the Pearl Buck Social Service Award. Bucheon also hosts a range of initiatives that aim to raise the local community’s level of participation in culture, such as the Youth Theatre Festival, poetry and essay writing competitions, or library festivals.
Two Bucheon-based organisations bring together writers and the literary milieu in general: the Bucheon Writers’ Association and the Boksagol Literary Society. The city has more than 20 active literary groups that publish in local literary periodicals, Bucheon Literature, Bucheon Literature Circle and Bucheon Writers. Their members hold festivals, competitions, events with authors, poetry nights and exhibitions in town, and, in close cooperation with the community, they award literary prizes. This thriving and developing tradition enjoys wide popularity with the people of Bucheon and is something they are immensely proud of.