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On the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Day,
How Did the Korean Publishing Industry Spend the Day?

 

2022.06.07

 

Many say, “The greater discovery than finding a new continent or inventing electricity is coining the concept, children.” Before the concept was recognized, children were merely toys for their parents or tools to use as a means. The discovery of the concept of children is the biggest for Chosun as it did not know the existence of young people.

- Bang Jeong-Hwan, A historical study of the Joseon juvenile movement, The Chosun Ilbo, 1929/1/4.

 

The year 2022 is the 100th anniversary of Children’s Day in Korea. The Children’s Day Declaration, announced by Bang Jeong-Hwan in 1922, is recognized as the world’s first children’s human rights declaration announced even before the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (the Geneva Declaration) in 1924, which was adopted by the League of Nations (the current UN). Bang Jeong-Hwan, who always felt pitiful that there were not enough cultural activities for children to engage in, published a translated children’s book collection, A Gift of Love, in 1922 and drove the publication of Korea’s children’s literature magazine Eorinnie (meaning children in Korean) the following year. The magazine found and nurtured many children’s literature writers. It changed the landscape of children’s literature of the era when translated children’s literature was dominant.

 

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The cover of the magazine, Eorinnie 1st edition
ⓒKorea Bang Jeong-Hwan Foundation

 

 

One hundred years have passed since Children’s Day was established, and Korean children’s literature is striding into the world. In 2020, Baek Hee-Na’s Cloud Bread (Hansol Education) won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, a representative children’s literature award. This year, Lee Suzy’s Summer (BIR Publishing) won the Hans Christian Andersen Awards for the first time as a Korean writer. The award is known as the Nobel prize for children’s literature. In addition, Choi Deok-Kyu’s Father’s Big Hands (YUN Edition) won a world-renowned children’s book award, the Bologna Ragazzi Award, in fiction. Shin Sun-Mi’s The Ant Fairy in the Middle of the Night (Changbi Publishers), which is full of Korean colors, also won the Japan Sankei Children’s Publishing Culture Award for Best Translation.
The Korean publishing industry held many events to commemorate the monumental 100th anniversary of Children’s Day. There were also books published to reflect on the meaning of Children’s Day. As it is near the end of May, the month for family, now is the time to look back on the history and the social roles of children’s books.

 

An Event Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Day

 

2022 Children’s Literature Week

 

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Arts Council Korea hosted Children’s Literature Week all through May with six relevant institutions and organizations. During the eve of the opening ceremony for the week held on April 30th, performances based on Bang Jeong-Hwan’s pieces were held: a recital of the children’s story, The Last Night of April, and Bang Jeong-Hwan’s musical, A Gift of Love.

 

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2022 Children’s Literature Week eve of the opening ceremony: ‘The Last Night of April ’ and the musical Bang Jeong-Hwan’s A Gift of Love ⓒArts Council Korea

 

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The exhibition: The 100th year of Korean Children’s Literature commemorating the 100th anniversary of Children’s Day ⓒArts Council Korea

 

 

From Children’s Day (May 5th) to May 26th, the Central Temple of Cheondogyo, which set May 5th as Children’s Day 100 years ago, hosted an exhibition named The 100th Anniversary for Children’s Day and Korean Children’s Story. It was an exhibition showing 100 masterpieces of children’s literature nominated by the magazine Eorinnie and the Child Book Organization. The exhibition reviewed children’s stories, and writers of each era introduced historical materials on Korean children’s stories and books selected by children.
The most loved children’s story writers of the current era held a Literature Concert for Children. The best-selling authors met 50 teams of children and their parents: Cho Young-Geul, who wrote a picture book Truly Truly Not a Lie! (Spring Sunshine) and Kim Cheol-Su Bread (Spring Sunshine) on May 5th, and story writer Kim Riri who wrote a famous creative children’s story series Manbok’s Rice Cake Shop (BIR Publishing), which was published in the 3rd graders’ textbooks, on May 7th.

 

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Literature Concert for Children illustrator Cho Young-Geul, story writer Kim Ri-Ri ⓒKorea Arts Council

 

 

Throughout May, libraries and local bookstores nationwide ran programs on children’s literature targeting all ages under the name Children’s Literature Stage, integrating experience, The Best Children’s Literary Books exhibition, and performance.

 

The 20th Paju Book City Book Festival for Children

 

Korea’s largest children’s knowledge festival, the Paju Book City Book Festival for Children, was held for four days from May 5th to 8th near Paju Book City. Since the event started in 2003, Paju Book City has held diverse programs every year to develop children’s reading culture to become a City resembling Children.

 

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The opening ceremony of The 20th Paju Book City Book Festival for Children ⓒPaju Book City

 

 

This year, the festival was held under an environmental theme, exhibited 30 children’s books selected by the Ministry of Environment, and was decorated with exhibits celebrating Children’s Day. For the four days during the festival, Paju Book City Center ran a book market where around 30 publishers and bookstores could meet readers. In addition, many events were held around the city, including performances, such as a solo act and puppet show based on picture books, lectures by writers, and artist fairs.

 

The Big Event Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Day

 

Korea’s representative children’s library, National Library for Children and Young Adults, hosted a big event celebrating the 100th anniversary of Children’s Day. From May 5th to 7th, the library decorated its space under the theme of Children’s Day and prepared performances and experience programs.

 

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The exhibition Children’s Dream, Adults’ Dream, Children’s Dream, Adults’ Dream 18 ⓒNational Library for Children and Young Adults

 

 

Also, as part of a celebration of the anniversary, an exhibition named Children’s Dream, Adults’ Dream 18 is held from May 5th to August 31st. In the show, visitors can see renowned art pieces based on children and an AI-based celebratory message from Bang Jeong-Hwan, which reenacted voice and figure.

 

Books Published Celebrating Children’s Day

 

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The Last Night of April, Naughty Boy, Singing of Children, The World of Children, and Talking to a Crying Child

 

 

The Last Night of April (Published by Gilbut Kid) - Written by Bang Jeong-Hwan, commented by Jang Jung-Hee, and illustrated by Heo Gu

 

The book added images to the children’s story written by Bang Jeong-Hwan. The story expresses the thrill and excitement of children waiting for Children’s Day through the personification of flowers and animals. Artist Heo Gu, who participated as an illustrator, used watercolors and hanji (Korean paper) in the form of collages, showing the mood of the 1920s when old and modern lifestyles coexisted. Unlike the dark and silent night scenery, the animals prepare for a festival briskly in the story. It shows people’s minds preparing for Children’s Day even under the harsh reality of the era of Japanese colonialism. The commentary of Dr. Jang Jung-Hee, the director of the Bang Jeong-Hwan Research Institute, helps understand the writing.

 

Naughty Boy (Book Bank Books) - Written by Kim Chang-Wan and illustrated by Lee Jeoung-Yeon

 

Kim Chang-Wan, who was loved as a singer-songwriter of the band Sanulrim, an actor, an MC, and an essay writer, released his famous children’s song Naughty Boy in a picture book. The book’s cover shows children in various colors and shapes. The album jacket of his children’s song collection was released in 1979. Children in the book run around alleys, play all day long, go back as their mom takes them home, promise to meet again, and talk in their sleep when they fail to visit places they planned to visit. The story is ordinary and simple as it was based on lyrics like, “Play around. Jump around and kick some balls. (…) Sweats on our foreheads. Flower buds in our hearts. Climb the tree. Fly the sky.” Nevertheless, the story states that children are independent beings with desires and feelings like adults.

 

Singing of Children (Media Changbi) - Written by Do Jong-Hwan

 

The book Singing of Children sheds light on the life story of children’s songwriter Jeong Sun-Cheol who lived in the same era as Bang Jeong-Hwan. Jeong Sun-Cheol is a grandchild of Choi Si-Hyeong, the 2nd leader of Donghak. Jeong Sun-Cheol devoted himself to the children’s rights movement as he bore his grandfather’s words to his heart: “Don’t hit children, and don’t make them cry. Even a child served the Hanul (天, equivalent to God), so beating a child is the same as hitting the Hanul.” He made children’s songs loved by Korean citizens but was not recognized enough due to the division between North and South Korea. Therefore, the book brings the main actors of the children’s rights movement from a hundred years ago, who were relatively unknown.

 

The World of Children (Sakyejul) - Written by Kim So-Young

 

Recently, among the storybooks that talked about children in Korea, the best-sellers with the most significant impact were released as a new special edition in The World of Children. The writer Kim So-Young worked as an editor of children’s books for around ten years. He runs a children’s book club now. The writer looks back on how society treated children through episodes children directly experienced. The book was introduced in a section of Sakyejul 40, The Book·People·Nature, in the 40th-anniversary exhibition of Sakyejul Publishing. It gained positive responses from many readers and led to a meaningful discussion on children. The royalties generated from sales of the special edition will all be donated to the rehabilitation of children with disabilities.

 

Talking to a Crying Child (Arles) - Written by Byeon Jin-Kyung

 

A reporter of Sisa IN looked deeply into issues that threaten children and teens’ lives and livelihoods and the hidden stories lying under “accidents and numbers shown to the public.” The stories were written in the book Talking to a Crying Child. Korean society, seen from the view of the writer figured through several years of new collection activities, was “a harsh world for children.” Adults establish laws and systems and vote for the short-term profit than the children’s future. Children’s voices have been muted for a long time. The book reveals the reality children face while being put on the margin of human rights: child abuse, traffic accidents happening in and out of School Zones, children’s dirt-covered meals (meals of a low-income family), education gap from COVID-19, the reality of child labor as a child YouTuber, hatred towards children of prisoners and refugees. The book also shows clues to resolving issues through discussions with children’s rights protection specialists in and out of Korea.

 

Why We Need to Read Children’s Books Now

 

Children’s Day has been around us for the past century, but children’s rights in Korea have a long distance to walk. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Comprehensive Surveys on Actual Conditions of Children (2018), Korea ranked the lowest among the OECD member states on the life satisfaction level of children and teenagers. No Kids Zone, which limits children’s access to restaurants, and words that look down on children, such as Syllables+Rinnie (a word depicting a premature person as a child) or Jamminie (a buzzword belittling children), show how Koreans recognize children as beings without the same rights as adults. Save the Children, an international children’s rights NGO, analyzed law-making activities of the National Assembly and found out that laws and regulations proposed by the 21st National Assembly in 1 year for children only accounted for 5.4%. The ratio is only one-third of the children’s population ratio in Korea, 15%.
For that matter, Save the Children ran a campaign requesting the national assembly as it is the organization that builds the foundation of Korea. Furthermore, save the Children asked them to show interest in children’s lives as Korea meets its Children’s Day. The campaign Picture Book Reading National Assembly consisted of activities, including 300 of the 21st National Assembly members reading picture books on children’s rights and posting videos promising legislative activities for children on social media. In addition, 9 publishers (Dourei Books, Moonji Publishing, Munhakdongne, BIR Publishing, Book Bank Books, Sakyejul Publishing, Iyagikot Publishing, Changbi Publishers, Hyeonamsa Publishing) participated, and children’s literature critic Kim Ji-Eun selected 16 picture books under diverse themes: child abuse and domestic violence, sexual discrimination and violence, war and conflict, climate risk, attitude towards children, inequality (poverty), alternative child rearing (adoption), children with disabilities, and refugees.

 

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The campaign, Picture Book Reading National Assembly ⓒSave the Children

 

 

Books selected by the “Picture Book Reading National Assembly”

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Because of Me (Written by Park Hyeon-Ju, published by Iyagikot Publishing)
Moonlit Night (Written by Jeon Mi-Hwa, published by Changbi Publishers)
The Queen of Lego Land (Written by Kim Gae-Mi and illustrated by Kim Jeong-Eun, published by Changbi Publishers)
Sexual Discrimination and Violence The Big Bad Wolf in My House (Written by Valerie Fontaine and others, published by Dourei Books)
Shoot! I am the Soccer Champion (Written by Heo A-Seoung, published by BIR Publishing)
War and Conflict The Cat Man of Aleppo (Written by Irene Lathom, Karim Shamsi-Basha, and others, published by BIR Publishing)
Corn (Written by Kwon Jeong-Saeng and illustrated by Kim Hwan-Young, published by Sakyejul Publishing)
Climate Risk Red Muffler (Written by Sen Woo, published by BIR Publishing)
Snow Storm (Written by Kang Kyung-Su, published by Changbi Publishers)
Attitude towards Children The Tomato Standards (Written by Kim Jun-Hyeon and illustrated by Song Seon-Ok, published by Munhakdongne)
Look at Me (Written by Choi Min-Ji, published by Changbi Publishers)
Inequality (Poverty) Next Month (Written by Jeon Mi-Hwa, published by Sakeyjul Publishing)
My Home (Written by Cho Won-Hui, published by Iyagikot Publishing)
Alternative Nurturing (Adoption) Today’s Sunshine (Written by Yun Seul and illustrated by Keuk Ji-Seung, published by Moonji Publishing)
Children with Disabilities Look Up! (Written by Jung Jun-Ho, published by Hyeonamsa Publishing)
Refugees What Is a Refugee? (Written by Elise Gravel, published by Book Bank Books)

 

The nominated books on each theme are as shown above. The books are worth reading as people look back on the spirit of Bang Jeong-Hwan, who believed that the future of a nation lies in children on the 100th anniversary of Children’s Day.

 

 


Written by Kim Hye-Gyeong (Journalist at Readernews)

 

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Kim Hye-Gyeong (Journalist at Readernews)

#Children’s Day#Children’s Literature Week#Paju Book City#Book Festival#Picture Book
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