The 4th Pak Kyongni Art Festival took place during the Korea−Russia Dialogue Forum 2022. The event was dedicated to the topic of land and life in literatures from the two countries. The Festival was attended by scholars and students from: St Petersburg University; the National Library of Russia; Moscow State Linguistic University; Russian State University for the Humanities; Korea University; Hankuk University of Foreign Studies; Jeonju University; Kyung Hee University; Chung-Ang University; Incheon National University; Gyeongsang National University; and newspaper "The Chosun Ilbo".

The opening ceremony was moderated by Hur Seung Chul, Director of the KRD secretariat on the Korean side, Professor at Korea University.

Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chair of the KRD Coordinating Committee on the Russian side, opened the session. ’Literature is an instrument of life. It is destined to help people learn more about themselves and the world as a whole, to teach people of different cultural and historical backgrounds to hear each other’s words,’ said Nikolay Kropachev in his address to the Forum. He added that ideas about life and the concept of land as the basis of life unite authors of many nations: these ideas are inherent, for example, in the works of Mikhail Sholokhov. ’Literature enhances the dialogue of civilisations,’ concluded the Rector. ’The common perception of the world and life reflected in the works of Russian and Korean authors enables us to find points of mutual understanding even today.’

In her works, Pak Kyongni reflects on crucial questions of human existence, on the great and infinite diversity of life, and on its value. She emphasises the urgency of coping with the hardships and sorrows of life.

Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chair of the KRD Coordinating Committee on the Russian side

Chan Ho Jin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Russia, also delivered his welcoming remarks. He reminded of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1990, more than 30 years ago, and spoke about the role of the Korea−Russia Dialogue Forum in the development of civil ties. ’Pak Kyongni used to say that culture is an eternity. In other words, knowledge of the culture of a people means knowledge of the history and traditions of the people, finding common meanings and traits, understanding their spirit, feelings and emotions,’ said Mr Chan, thanking the coordinating committee and the KRD directorate for organising the festival.

The current world situation has affected bilateral relations, but despite all the difficulties, both sides share the desire to maintain stability in relations and preserve strong foundations for future progress. Today’s festival is a confirmation of our shared aspirations.

Chan Ho Jin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Russia

Andrey Kulik, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Korea, in his address also emphasised the fact that the novels of Pak Kyongni reflect the life of the country over several generations. ’Many works of Pak Kyongni, the jewel of modern Korean literature, as she is also called in her homeland, have been translated into Russian and are studied in leading higher education institutions in Russia. I am convinced that dialogue and interaction between civilisations not only enrich national cultures, but also create a solid humanitarian foundation for good neighbourhood, co-prosperity and cooperation between the individual countries, and on a global scale,’ said Andrey Kulik. He also stressed the importance of continuing work on translating both classical and contemporary literature.

Sehee Kim, Head of the Toji Cultural Foundation and grandson of Pak Kyongni, expressed his gratitude to the participants and organisers of the festival in his speech. ’Today, the world is changing rapidly. Everything we once knew has changed and been transformed. Under these conditions, we need to return to existential values and remember about morality and spirituality,’ he said. ’This might be the reason why, today, in this time of global turbulence, we have all come together to talk about the fundamental values of every human being through the prism of Pak Kyongni’s work.’

Lee Kyu Hyung, Chair of the KRD Coordinating Committee on the Korean side, ex-Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Russia, also addressed the Forum participants. ’We are all born, breathe and live on Earth. I think that we, the beings who live on the Earth that gives us life, must remember to respect it. This is the philosophy underlying the entire creative work of Pak Kyongni. That is why the 4th Pak Kyongni Art Festival, organised by the Korea−Russia Dialogue, is dedicated to the theme ’Literature about the Land. Literature for Life,’ said the head of the Coordinating Committee on the Korean side. Lee Kyu Hyung said that he is a great admirer of Pak Kyongni’s work, and concluded the opening ceremony with a poem of his own, "Moscow, the first snow".

Life, shamanism and elective courses

The first session was moderated by Han Man Chung, Professor at Sangmyung University and member of the working group "Culture and the Arts" of the KRD. Heads of the working group delivered their introductory speeches. Vladimir Gronsky, Director General of the National Library of Russia, spoke about the joint projects implemented by the National Library of Russia in partnership with the Korean side. Sok Yonchzhun, Professor of Korea University, raised the topic of "big" and "small" time in the works of Mikhail Bakhtin.

Inna Tsoy, Associate Professor in the Department of Korean Studies at St Petersburg University, spoke about: the formation and impact of the literary workshop of Pak Kyongni; the perception of her works by students today; and the activities of the University in popularising Pak Kyongni’s works in Russia.

In 1992-1993, the South Korean writer Pak Kyongni lectured on literature at Yonsei University, and it was these lectures that essentially marked the beginning of her creative workshop. In these lectures, Pak Kyongni shared her reflections on literature, writing and creative vocation with her students. Later, the 12 lectures will be published in a single book entitled "The notebook of Pak Kyongni’s lectures. To young people dreaming of literature". Inna Tsoy noted that this work formed the basis for her elective courses for senior students in Korean studies at St Petersburg University: "Pak Kyongni (1926-2008): Life and Creative Work" and "Pak Kyongni’s Artistic Worldview". ’Since the lectures are not translated into Russian, students read and listen to them in Korean, thereby retaining the tone and intonation inherent to Pak Kyongni. This is beneficial both in terms of learning the Korean language and of studying the writer’s work,’ said the speaker. The elective course also includes a collection of essays entitled ’The toil of life’, which is a key to understanding the worldview of Pak Kyongni. Inna Tsoy also cited excerpts from the final works of the students in the course.

"The notebook of Pak Kyongni’s lectures. To young people dreaming of literature"

Every real object is an unexplored world. The artist walks through this "forest", he walks through it endlessly and, borrowing the form of the novel, tries to create an abstract object which he never meets. It’s a hope, it’s a dream, it’s the future. You have to see the world with your own mind and your own eyes, see your own milieu. Paraphrasing is not an art. You have to go beyond the template and the stencil. I believe you still have an unclouded clear sensibility in you. Look at things honestly.

Inna Tsoy also spoke about the achievements of the Russia−Korea Dialogue Forum in establishing cultural ties. Inna Tsoy gave particular mention to: the unveiling of a monument to Pak Kyongni at St Petersburg University in 2018; the translation of the novel ‘Toji ("The Land") by Mikhail Pak; the production of Russian subtitles for a documentary based on a 2004 interview with Pak Kyongni by Anastasiia Gureva, Associate Professor at St Petersburg University; the publication in Seoul of the book "The life and work of Pak Kyongni as a wide and deep sea" featuring articles by Russian literary critics, a course of lectures on the writer’s life and work developed at the University; the publication of the special issue of the "St Petersburg University" magazine in Russian and English devoted to Korea; and other academic and literary publications and projects. Among the traditional projects, the speaker mentioned the Pak Kyongni Art Festival, held for the fourth time.

Kim Seung Jong, Professor at Jeonju University and Chairman of the Toji Cultural Foundation, presented a paper on ’Sympathy for the active manifestations of life: Pak Kyongni’s perceptions of life in the novel "Toji" (The Land)’’. Professor Kim provided an overview of the works of various scholars who focused on the theme of life in the work of Pak Kyongni. The Professor suggested that some of these scholars highlighted the ideas of shamanism in the interaction of the living and the dead. The belief in the proactivity of life, its cyclicity and dynamism is inherent in the works of Ham Seok-heon. Kim Seung Jong indicated that the philosophies of Korean authors are similar in many ways, and their works have been successful in communicating this philosophy to the modern reader.

Land in Korean and Russian literature

Inna Tsoy, Associate Professor at St Petersburg University, moderated the second session of the festival. Kim Young Sook, Professor of Kyung Hee University, spoke about the contemporary meaning of Pak Kyongni’s novel "Toji" (The Land). The world of the epic novel is so rich, she said, that even literary experts find it difficult to identify the main character. The interaction of the characters creates new meanings that further develop their portraits. The speaker talked about the author’s philosophy of life revealed through the two key characters. Among the fundamental values that guided the writer were feelings of conscience, guilt and responsibility towards others.

Anastasiia Gureva, Associate Professor at St Petersburg University, presented a report on ecological themes in the poetry of Pak Kyongni. Anastasiia Gureva began her presentation by saying that environmental issues became the subject of attention only in the 1980s, and they appeared on the agenda in Korea during that period. Although the name of Pak Kyongni is not among the "eco-poets", she paid a great attention to the topic of nature in her works. ’In her poems, social issues are closely intertwined with the theme of creativity, and this also applies to environmental issues.’ The reporter quoted the writer: ’But for the Earth, not having what is called the ecosystem of this enormous planet, which keeps us safe by being part of the Universe, would literature be possible?’

Pak Kyongni’s poems about nature are deeply rooted in the East Asian literary tradition on the one hand, and express contemporary trends in poetry, particularly environmental poetry, on the other. Her poetry manifests the harmony that underpins the natural cycles of life, and in harmony there is hope.

Anastasiia Gureva, Associate Professor in the Department of Korean Studies at St Petersburg University

Art in the city of Tongyeong, Pak Kyongni’s hometown, was the topic of a presentation by Park Eun Jung, Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Many of the scenes in the works of Pak Kyongni, including her novels "Toji" and "The Daughters of Pharmacist Kim", are set in this particular area, a fishing town in the southeast of the country. Professor Park Eun Jung talked about some of the rituals and rites practised in the area, and the arts and crafts of Tongyeong.

Aleksandr Bolshev, Professor in the Department of History of Russian Literature of St Petersburg University, presented a paper on ’The meaning of "land" in the Russian village prose of the 20th century and contemporary literature’. The author examined the concept of "land" in the works of Valentin Rasputin, the brightest representative of the ’village prose’, in whose works this concept acquires a special meaning. His most famous novel, "Farewell to Matyora", describes the flooding of Matyora Island and the village of the same name for the construction of a hydroelectric power station. The compositional and ideological centre of the story is the cemetery. Valentin Rasputin describes a small group of old men and women, led by Daria, the main character in the story, who refuse to leave the island. "Land" for the elderly inhabitants of Matyora is the place where their ancestors are buried. They feel their responsibility towards the dead, without whose permission the village should not be flooded.

’The villagers perceive the Land as a giant cemetery, very much in line with the ideas of the Russian thinker Nikolai Fyodorov. The native land for them is the place of the graves of their parents and the rest of the family, and they feel a constant connection with them,’ said Professor Bolshev.

From Pyeongsari to Vyoshenskaya

The third and final session was moderated by Professor Seung Yun Lee from Incheon National University, member of the working group "Culture and the Arts" of the Korea−Russia Dialogue.

Professor Choi Yuhwe from Chung-Ang University spoke about how the novel "Toji" (The Land) has been represented in the media: magazines, radio, dramas and films. Ms Choi noted that because of the plot and chronological length of the epic’s events, the genre diversity of film adaptations and theatrical productions is extremely wide. It includes historical films, melodramas, tragedies, detective serials, and even musicals.

Mariia Soldatova, Associate Professor at Russian State University for the Humanities, compared the works of Pak Kyongni and Mikhail Sholokhov. In her opinion, Pak Kyongni is not quite rightly compared to Leo Tolstoy. ’Leo Tolstoy was, after all, a representative of the gentry. His novels portray the world of the aristocracy, which was closer to him. It is much more interesting to compare Pak Kyongni’s works with those of Mikhail Sholokhov. This is because both of them describe the change of epochs, which was very difficult both in Russia and in Korea,’ said Mariia Soldatova. The novel "And Quiet Flows the Don" depicts the life of the Cossacks during World War I, the revolution and the Civil War in Russia from 1921 to 1922. The novel "Toji" focuses on the period from 1897, the year when the Great Korean Empire was proclaimed, to 1945, the year when the country was liberated from Japanese colonial rule. Mariia Soldatova noted another connection between the two novels. The events take place at locations far from the capitals: the stanitsa of Vyoshenskaya and the village of Pyeongsari.

The waves of historical change reach these places, crashing against each other, wreaking havoc, leaving people unable to find their footing and navigate their way out.

Mariia Soldatova, Associate Professor at Russian State University for the Humanities

Sung Hye-rim, Head of the culture department of "The Chosun Ilbo" and member of the working group "Culture and the Arts" of the KRD, provided some examples of the linking power of the arts. She mentioned Kim Kimin, Principal Dancer at the Mariinsky Theatre from Korea. The renowned actor and director Lee Sung-jae recently announced that he intends to stage Anton Chekhov’s play "The Seagull" in South Korea. Sung Hye-rim also spoke of other notable cultural exchanges that will form part of the history of cooperation between the two countries in the field of art.

The third session also included a reading of works by Russian and Korean authors. Excerpts from the second volume of the novel "Toji" were recited by Jo Yongsoon, a member of the Toiji Society in the city of Wonju, and Ekaterina Pokholkova, Dean of the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at Moscow State Linguistic University. Professor Lee Namwon from Gyeongsang National University recited a fragment from the novel "And Quiet Flows the Don", and Polina Avramenko, a master’s student of Asian and African Studies at St Petersburg University, read the poems by Pak Kyongni.