Bucheon, South Korea, is a city where the modern arts such as comics and screen music have developed under the municipal slogan “Special City of Culture.” The city is home to the Bucheon Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the finest orchestras in Korea, and hosts the annual Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) under the themes of “Love,” “Fantasy,” and “Adventure.” Bucheon is also widely recognized as a cartoon city where cartoons, comics and animated films make up a large part of the cultural fabric of the city.
Bucheon is the city where Korea’s one of the most active night school movement began in the 1970s among laborers who had not been able to continue their studies and instead started to work in the factories. The movement was born out of the desire of workers to continue learning, even while battling their need for sleep, and the ardor of university students who sought to help them stand up for their own rights. Bucheon is thus a city with a passion for education, where people know that learning can change lives. This night school history and lifelong learning tradition resulted in Bucheon joining the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. Bucheon City led the successful bid to become a UNESCO city of Literature in October 2017; the first in Asia and the 21st among the world’s prestigious network of recognized cities.
10 dingen die je moet weten over Bucheon
Compared to its short history, the city of Bucheon has produced many renowned writers. Chief among them are Byun Yeongro (1897-1961), the pioneer of new poetry in Korea; Yang Gui-ja (1955-), author of A Distant and Beautiful Place (Wonmidong saramdeul), a seminal work of Korean modern literature; and Mok Il-shin (1913-1986), a famous author of children’s literature, best known as the lyricist of the beloved children’s song "Jajeongeo" (Bicycle). The city also has a special connection with Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. After the Korean War, the novelist opened an orphanage in Bucheon, named Sosa Hope House, to look after war orphans and mixed-raced orphans. The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea is based on her experiences in the country. To commemorate the love and philanthropic spirit that she showed, the city hosts an annual festival in her honor. Moreover, there are than 20 individual literary societies and organizations active in Bucheon, including the Bucheon Literary Society. Indeed, the number of writers living in the city is steadily increasing, due to its proximity to the capital, Seoul.
Bucheon hosts a number of literary festivals in honor of the writers connected with the city. The Boksagol Arts Festival, which takes its name from the old name of the city, Boksagol (meaning "peach blossom valley"), is a celebration of all the arts. The major literary festivals include the Suju Literary Festival to commemorate Korea's pioneer of new poetry Byun Yeongro, whose pen name was Suju; Neighbors in Wonmi-dong Festival in honor of Yang Gui-ja and her novel of the same title; and the Pearl Buck Festival, in memory of the Nobel laureate who founded an orphanage for war orphans in Bucheon and wrote a novel about Korea. In addition, Bucheon has instituted several literary awards such as the Suju Literary Award, Pearl Buck Literary Award, and the Bucheon New Writers Award. Moves are being made to develop the Pearl Buck Literary Award into an international award in the fields of diaspora and minority literature. The New Writers Award is serving as a channel for the discovery of new literary talent.
Bucheon is famous for its well-organized library network comprising 119 libraries big and small operated by the city, civic organizations, schools and universities. Representative cooperative projects are the inter-library loan system, citizens' book clubs, a campaign to have everyone in the same city read the same book, a reading marathon, and book festivals. Bucheon is the only city in Korea with a book sharing system between public libraries and university libraries, giving the general public easy access to university research materials. The city also provides special library services for the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and migrants, a Braille library for the blind named Haemil Library, and a mobile library in the form of a bus that takes books to residents in outlying areas.
Bucheon may be a small city but it is home to a number of institutes of higher education including the Catholic University of Korea, Seoul Theological University, Bucheon University, and Yuhan University. Sungkonghoe University is located on the border between Bucheon and Seoul. Moreover, as Seoul is only 30 minutes away on the subway, students living in Bucheon can easily commute to the 46 universities in the capital. Bucheon has some 200 elementary and secondary schools, including Gyeonggi Arts High School, where students dreaming of a career in the arts take classes in diverse fields. The educational facilities of the city work in close cooperation with the municipal government, which allocates a large portion of its budget to the education sector, especially projects such as the Art Valley for youth education in the arts and specialized courses in schools.
In Bucheon, cooperation between the city government and local society to protect the city's literary environment is particularly important. When local bookstores faced crisis with the expansion of online bookstores, the city made it a rule for public libraries to purchase books to the value of 115,000 USD annually from local businesses. On their part the bookstores have formed the Bucheon Bookstore Business Council and are working with the city to promote reading as a part of daily life.
To provide support for the local literary scene, the city of Bucheon has formed a partnership with Korea's foremost writers' group, the Korean Literary Society. It also operates literature courses and writing programs in cooperation with Teachers Who Make a Warm World With Books, a group that specializes in teaching and promoting reading among students. In line with such moves, the city believes that literature can be used to promote cultural diversity and global citizenship, and is hence working in conjunction with the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (UNESCO APCEIU) to provide related programs.
The city of Bucheon has formed close relations with the East Asia Publishers Conference, an organization of publishing industry specialists from Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Okinawa. In 2016, Okinawa donated to Bucheon more than 10,000 volumes related to Okinawa and its research on the issue of peace. Bucheon now plans to establish a special library for these materials with Okinawa, as well as an East Asian Literature Museum covering works from all over the region. The East Asia Publishers Conference is strongly supportive of Bucheon's application to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature and has agreed to work with the city to promote literary exchange throughout East Asia.
Bucheon has been engaged in international exchange and cooperation with seven sister cities in five countries: Harbin and Weihai in China, Okayama and Kawasaki in Japan, Khabarovsk in Russia, Bakersfield in the United States, and Valenzuela in the Philippines. In addition, it is working with Yantai in China and Angoulême in France on projects to develop the cartoon and culture industries. In the field of music, the Bucheon Philharmonic Orchestra takes the lead in international exchange, and in 2016 it performed at the La Folle Journée de Kanazawa, Japan.
The citizens of Bucheon play a central role in the city's literary activities. As an industrial city that grew in the course of Korea's rapid industrialization, Bucheon witnessed particularly strong labor and democratization movements when it was found that existing policies based on development and growth did not protect workers' rights. Workers turned to night school to satisfy their thirst for education and empower themselves to protect their own rights. Such labor activism expanded into civil movements and overlapped with the struggle for democratization of Korean society. The citizens' enhanced capacity for action stimulated development of the urban culture and the environment and exploration of the issue of sustainable urban development. In the libraries and education centers throughout Bucheon literary clubs are active, and the city strongly supports programs that help citizens to develop their creative capabilities.
Bucheon is set apart from other cities by its comics and cartoon (manhwa) industry. The Korea Manhwa Contents Agency in Bucheon is the only comics promotion agency in the country. Efforts to nurture the cartoon industry into a core cultural industry of the city from the late 1990s have been showing results, and policy support continues with the Manhwa Creative Studio providing artists with residences and assistance in breaking into overseas markets. Thanks to comics industry-friendly policies, a third of all Korean cartoonists live in Bucheon and this has greatly enhanced the creative capital of the city.
The Bucheon cartoon industry is closely linked with literature. In the East Asian literary tradition, illustrations were an important device in explaining text and helping readers to understand the contents. This practice of using pictures and explain text together is an important East Asian publishing tradition. In the novels and other literary works of East Asia, the pages are divided into half with pictures at the top and text below, or text is placed on one page and illustrations on the facing page. The comics and cartoon industry of today is influenced by and builds on this literary tradition.