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Chinese and Koreans see eye to eye, literally

Updated: 2012-09-04 10:09
By Sun Ye ( China Daily)

Many single women could perhaps identify with this description: Starting the day sleep deprived, and peeking into the fridge only to find a withered apple.

This is a scene found in South Korean writer Jeong Yi-hyun's novel, My Sweet City, about the lives of single women in their 30s.

Related: Cross-cultural 'baby'

"The scene largely reflected my life before I was married," Jeong told her Chinese audience at the Beijing International Book Fair, which closed on Sunday.

Jeong was among 13 Korean writers who participated in the panel discussions of Chinese and Korean writers. South Korea was this year's country of honor at BIBF.

"The stigma faced by unmarried women in their 30s is common both in Korea and China," Jeong says.

Besides speaking to the hearts of China's working single women, Korean writers addressed many other topics that make one marvel at how similar the two countries are.

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Among them was Kim Ran-do, a University of Seoul professor, who presented his book, Youth Must Be Painful, which has sold 2.5 million copies in Asia.

In a BIBF session with Chinese authors Bi Shumin and Jiang Fangzhou, he opined that young Chinese are troubled by the same issues faced by Koreans.

"Buying a house is sometimes a young person's only goal, which often leads to them being debt-laden, and living a hand-to-mouth life," Kim says.

Many Koreans, he says, prefer a steady civil servant career instead of pursuing their interests and take a long series of exams.

While Kim dished out advice to the audience, Bi urged Chinese graduates to pay close attention as "wisdom will lead you through hard times".

In the realm of literature, both countries share even more similarities.

Poet Wang Jiaxin praised Park Hyung-jun's verses as "warm and true, waking my dormant senses".

Related: Journey to the West

Park, often inspired by rural life, says in return that Wang's poems express what he has always felt but failed to articulate.

In spite of the familiarity, both Chinese and Korean writers say they know little about each other.

For example, Korean poet Kim Seon-wu admits that she heard her first modern Chinese poetry at the book fair. She says she hasn't heard any interpretation of "such wonderful Chinese poems" in 16 years of her professional life.

Sitting next to Kim at a reading session, Wang says he knows literature from European countries better than from the neighboring country.

The book fair offered a good opportunity for the writers to get to know each other, he adds.

In addition to Korean writers, more than 60 publishers from South Korea joined the book fair to tap China's market potential.

Sakyejul Publishing Ltd, known for its children's picture books, has long established itself in the European and the US markets. Many of its publications feature fables and fairytales related to family values like filial piety.

Though Chinese readers can identify with these themes easily, Kang Hyun-joo of the publishing house says the company did not join the BIBF in the past six years because of the limited demand. She decided to join this year "to test the water".

"I think business with China will take off soon," Kang says.

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