Kang Woo Hyon

My name is Kang Woo Hyon from KBBY.

It is wonderful to meet you all today.

My presentation is entitled:

Freedom and Space for Children

I will talk about

Korea’s Nami Island International Children’s Book Festival


Those living their lives in the center of our societies;

Those living their lives by working and making a living;

Those leading various types of communities by forming families and societies;

They all seem to share a common wish to help someone;

The will to help children, elders, and those with handicaps by any means necessary.

The reason why hopes and peace prevail, paradoxically, in this world of constant war and poverty is perhaps because there are more people willing to help and care for others than those who are not.

You may not have paid much attention but Korea has its own unique set of characteristics.

1) Despite using the same language, Korea is divided into two different nations.

2) Despite being a part of the cultural region that uses Chinese characters like Japan and China, Korea has its own language and alphabet.

3) Despite a scarcity of natural resources on its confined peninsula, Korea has escaped from poverty by exporting its goods and services.

4) Due to a strong emphasis on education, Korean parents push their children to study rather than to “play creatively.”

5) Human relations in the country are mostly founded on a vertical formation, not a horizontal one, because of our cultural emphasis on etiquette and obedience by children and subordinates.

What I would like to share with you today is not about what Korea is, but about what we can do to utilize and further develop these characteristics into more positive ones for our children. I would also like to talk about what KBBY has discovered from its small but very fruitful and meaningful experiment in this regard.

2005 was the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday.

To commemorate this anniversary, we held the Nami Island Book Festival. Our slogan was “Hopes for Children and Relaxation for Parents through Books.”

It was not an ordinary book festival, but was designed to help visitors “eat and drink books, play with books like they do with friends, build houses with books, / and joyfully play alongside the books.”

In addition to exhibiting children’s books from around the world, we experimented for 70 days with a variety of programs designed to inspire not only children but parents as well, including exhibitions of Anderson’s stories and original paintings, puppet plays, storytelling, music performances and workshops.

The first of its kind to be held in Korea, the event was highly successful.

Thirty-eight countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the globe participated.

The most important subject of the experiment was to “help children freely select books, and even if they had not been fond of books, to help them experience creativity in an environment surrounded by books.”

The mass media and parents fervently praised our festival.

Especially, President Peter Schneck’s visit for encouragement and appraisal was an honor for us.

With this impetus, we held our second book festival this year. In 2006, we added the word, “International,” to the festival’s name and became “International Book Festival.”

Sixty-six countries participated with the help of IBBY, various embassies in Korea and other international organizations. We exhibited children’s books and tour information from 67 countries. This allowed us to also introduce the different environments in which good books could be written. This unique opportunity also gave us much joy while planning.

Especially, it was this aspect that prompted each individual participating country to hold their own “National Day,” publicize their nation, and simultaneously, share with many Korean children and families their unique cultures.

On National Day, each participant was able to freely introduce its books, arts, events, foods, and tourism.

I believe our book festival, held on one of the most renowned tourist spots in Korea, Nami Island, not only informed many Koreans about other cultures but also gave pride to foreigners residing in Korea about their own cultures.

The number speaks it all; around four hundred thousand people visited the island.

Unlike other book fairs where simply copyrights are traded, our festival provided a variety of cultural spaces, utilized books as media, and helped the public freely enjoy the world of creativity and imagination.

We believe that space dedicated to children not only can help them in many ways, but more importantly, that adults need time and space to share with young people.

No matter how eagerly children long for space to express their freedom and imagination, adults commonly make the mistake of taking this precious space away from them. We also believe this to be the most significant reason why such longings by children usually go unmet.

The reason why our book festival received such a positive appraisal is because we held it on a tourist spot, Nami Island. The island provided enough time and space for families to freely enjoy books, drawings, music, plays and other cultural events.

Of course, I do not believe all other countries can follow in our footsteps.

But, at least, adults should be aware that, in order to provide children with true freedom and space, they must allow them a minimum amount of time in which they can freely experiment.

Time devoted to seeing, feeling, and thinking…

That’s what all of us, including both children and adults, need.