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About SIWF

We’ve finally come to realize that we knew nothing at all. What we knew before— light dinners, masks, warm embraces, ventilators, applause and cheers, families and friends, infected people and passers-by…

We now think about the things that have changed completely. We recognize the world in 2021, altered yet fixed, and the world of tomorrow, which will be different yet constant.

We’ve given rise to crises and misery. It falls on our shoulders overcome them.

Here, literature sets its foot down and awakens by asking itself where it should start and finish, and whose hands it should hold.

We awaken.

Awakening—we’ll start anew from there.

We invite you to the 2021 Seoul International Writers’ Festival.


"Writing Tomorrow"

Before falling asleep, we often become worried and anxious
about what tomorrow may bring.
At the same time, we look forward to the adventures that lie ahead.
When we wake up however, we find that tomorrow is once again
beyond our reach.

How different is our life today
from the tomorrow that we envisioned yesterday?
Will we ever be able to arrive at the life of tomorrow?

Today’s literature is yesterday’s tomorrow;
what does it weave out of all the ominous premonitions
and bizarre yet enchanting dreams from yesterday?

Tomorrow and in the days that follow,
we will encounter our own faces that feel unfamiliar to us.
We will interact with writers from all corners of the world,
who have conveyed those strange new faces in multiple languages.

You are warmly invited to participate in the 2020 Seoul International Writers’ Festival.

Thousands of Mirrors Reflecting Us

A thousand mirrors reflect us.
Mirrors take us into an entrancing world of fascination and represent transparent objectivity.

We are all mirrors to one another. We identify ourselves in our own reflection in others. Stones, insects, trees, birds, stars, leaves of grass, skies and seas are all mirrors to one another. All things in the world reflect and get reflected by one another in order to complete their existence. Thus, they form an infinite universe, and every drop of water contains the entire universe.

The past and the future, too, are mirrors to each other. The present is the flesh of the time in which the past and the future reflect each other. The infinite moments of the present reflect and permeate one another to create eternity.

Literature is the mirror of the world, and life is the eternal mirror of literature. Literature is at once cold reflection and passionate intervention—clear contemplation and blissful intoxication. In literature, we find pledges but never orders—empathy but never coercion.

The 2019 Seoul International Writers’ Festival is a time of celebration that brings together writers from all over the world and those who love literature. Please join us at the SIWF and become one of the thousand mirrors reflecting our lives.

Nowhere/Now Here

We speak/write.
On the joy and anger and sadness and pain in this world,
On the things we only begin to know and the things we do not know,
On the world we experience; we continue to speak/write.

We hear/read.
In the streets and plazas, or inside and outside our hearts
To what we can only hear/read here,
To what we can only hear/read elsewhere
That is, we witness the world.

Other voices begin to rise and
Countless voices begin to resound in this place,
Here, lives can easily begin anew,
What about you, or us?


The Forgotten and the Unforgettable

At every moment we traverse and tremble
between forgetfulness and remembrance.
Sometimes, we feel it will be all right if we forget,
but then it seems we cannot forget,
but when we think we cannot forget,
suddenly we find we have forgotten.
Life is an effort not to forget something
but on the other hand it is a time full of the pain of trying to forget it.

History is recorded, love is remembered.
Until we move into the plaza’s records and the locked room’s memory
we need to play without end on unstable swings
between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Moving without pause round and round between the two, we have to ride the swings.
This world where day and night intersect, where remembrance and loss
stand back to back, is indeed our playground.

One who has just finished loving has much to forget.
One who has just begun to love has many things that cannot be forgotten.
One who has just lain down in the tomb has many things it's all right to forget.
One who has just been laid in the cradle has many things it would be wrong to forget.
Even if a person's heart has been lost,
that does not mean that its warmth has been forgotten.

I remember life is not the total number of years a person has lived
but the things remembered here and now and
that how we tell someone’s life depends on how we remember it,
From the stars shining on wintery highlands
to a single blade of grass on spring plains,
from people moaning under the giant wheel of history
to the individual being split between clockwork saw blades
the forgotten and the unforgotten ,
overlap and overlapping pass by and miss each other.

A writer is the most sensitive connoisseur of what remains and what has vanished,
who experiments with combination and decomposition, chooses between restoration and loss,
I hope that in this meaningful festival of writers,
the high space of the pagoda we built and the long river of time we set rolling
will meet, cross, be amplified and integrated
in the most natural voice with no ornamentation.

Hae Yisoo, writer
2019 Seoul International Writers’ Festival Board Member

Eros and Dream
Dreams Written on Page, Love Envisioned in Words

We dream and love through literature. The eros of literature forms communities linked not by blood but by conversation, that bloom and flourish all over this green earth. But where exactly does it bloom?

The community created by literature raises its roof and throws open its windows wherever eros and dreams find their way. The people of earth are connected to each other under this beautiful roof like the constellations in the night sky. We may be very far from one another, but if one should raise a hand and say, hello, you can be sure that someone will flash their hand in answer. Today we shall shake hands with our friends that have flown so far across the skies, and talk about dreams and love in literature all night.

Kim Haengsook, poet
2014 Seoul International Writers’ Festival Board Member

Reality + Imagination

Literature starts from reality. But it is through literature that we can imagine a world, different from the one we know.
That is the moment when literature transcends reality and makes an alternate one possible.
It is through such imagination that reality is enriched and that reality becomes the subject of yet more questions.

This festival is where the examination into our reality comes together with the power of imagination. And here, we enter another world of literature that is wide open to the writers and the readers.

We invite you to this world of literature, where reality and imagination coexist, beyond the boundaries of nationality and generations.

Fantasy + Empathy

Literature makes us dream.
Through literature, we imagine somewhere else beyond here.
The space of fantasy conjured up by literature leads us to moments of empathy.
Those moments are my fantasy; they are your fantasy; they are our fantasy.

Crossing borders and generations, we discover another world, a world of deeper and broader empathy.

Here, in this festival that embraces the power of fantasy and the sense of empathy, that other world is opening up before you.

Communication + Inspiration

This I could say about literature. That it originates in life. Literature may be written in language, but its place lies above language. I struggle to abolish the inevitable gap between language and life. Writers and their readers are comrades in their pursuit of an eternal goal. I long to meet you. I long to feel your lives. Our encounter will change us, and our literature as well. I welcome you all, all those headed out beyond language as they carry the burden of language on their shoulders.

2008 Seoul Young Writers' Festival
Planning Director Oh Soo-yeon

The Newness

From May 7th to 13th, 2006, thirty six young writers from fifteen countries and four continents gathered in Seoul. Korea Literature Translation Institute invited young writers from all over the world to cross the cultural, physical borders and maximize their mutual understanding. Twenty Korean writers including Kim Yeonsu, Kim Takhwan, Ha Seong-nan, Han Kang, Cheon Un-yeong and sixteen foreign writers including Poly Clark(UK), Jakob Hein (Germany), Marcelo Birmajer(Argentina), Peter Campion(USA) and Hirano Keiichiro(Japan) participated in this festival.

The writers ate, slept and lived together for seven days to discuss the cultural “newness.” They also experienced Korean traditional culture in Yeongju and in other places. We want to share the joyful memories of communicating literature in an unfamiliar language with unknown writers in our first festival through essays and photos.


  • SFAC
  • Seoul Design
  • Incheon Airport
  • Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
  • Global Association of Literary Festivals
  • Word Alliance
  • 더블린 국제문학축제
  • 베를린 국제문학축제
  • EBS
  • TBS
  • YES24
  • 문학주간
  • Munhakdongne
  • Changbi
  • 민음사
  • 은행나무
  • 현대문학
  • 자음과 모음
  • 다산북스
  • 쌤앤파커스
  • 한길사
  • 걷는사람
  • 도서출판 잔
  • 문학들