Seoul International Book Fair Welcomes Guest of Honor Sharjah

In News by Porter Anderson

Seoul International Book Fair opens with a 180-person delegation from Guest of Honor Sharjah and a visit from first lady Kim Keon-hee.

South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee, center in white, and Sharjah Book Authority chair Bodour Al Qasimi look at books in the exhibtion at the Guest of Honor Sharjah paviliion’s opening in the 65th Seoul International Book Fair. At left, Sharjah’s Fahim Al Qasimi watches the presentation. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also: IPA’s Karine Pansa at Seoul International Book Fair

Bodour Al Qasimi: ‘Investing in Culture’
As the 65th edition of the Seoul International Book Fair opened on Wednesday (June 14), the Sharjah Book Authority’s latest guest of honor appearance featured one of the emirate’s largest delegations to date.

A reported 180 governmental and news-media personnel from the United Arab Emirates are being led by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, the chair of Sharjah’s government relations department, and the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the American University in Sharjah and chair of the Sharjah Book Authority—as Publishing Perspectives readers know, the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

The opening of the new, spacious Seoul pavilion was attended by South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee, who visited with Bodour and Fahim Al Qasimi, along with Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri; the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Saif Ali Slayem Al Nuaimi; Abdulaziz Al Musallam, chair the Sharjah Institute for Heritage; Cheol-ho Yoon, who chairs both the book fair and the Korean Publishers Association; and Khoula Al Mijaini, who directs Sharjah’s fairs and festivals (Sharjah International Book Fair runs November 1 to 12).

In formal remarks and media messaging from the South Korean capital, the intent has been to draw parallels between the cultural priorities of the two nations, which share more than two book fairs with the acronyms SIBF.

Sheikh Fahim and Sheikha Bodour speak from two perspectives to the same point, the sheikh talking this week about Sharjah and South Korea sharing “a vision to build innovation on the backbone of a strong and unique identity” and the sheikha referring to a “common experience in investing in culture to create a flourishing cultural scene.”

Kim Keon-hee. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

First lady Kim, in keynote comments during her visit to the fair and Sharjah’s stand, spoke of the role of the book fair as being that of a platform for cultural exchange.

She pointed to a fair’s capacity to highlight publishing education and recent trends in the field.

In his comments, Fahim Al Qasimi has pointed to South Korean’s adoption of technology to promote and export Korean entertainment, food, and culture, referring to the concept of Sharjah’s author-emir Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi to focus the development of the UAE’s third emirate on reading and publishing.

Fahim Al Qasimi. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

“The presence of Sharjah as a guest of honor at the Seoul International Book Fair raises a fundamental question for us,” Fahim Al Qasimi said. “Why are we here and what do we want to offer the Korean audience? We’re not here just to showcase our publications, or our cultural, artistic, and literary initiatives and events.

“We’re here to participate in a cultural dialogue that contributes to enhancing civilisational exchange.

“We look forward to learning from South Korea’s experience in education, creativity, development, and adopting advanced technologies. Our presence among you all reflects our deep faith in culture as a medium to know others; as a tool for learning, creativity, and development; and as a value that upholds heritage, identity, and belongingness.”

Bodour Al Qasimi. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

Bodour Al Qasimi, speaking to the cultural imperative of Sheikh Sultan’s construct for Sharjah, said, “For more than five decades, the emirate has built a cultural environment centered around books and reading, based on its belief in the key role of books in developing nations and societies, particularly the younger generations.

“Sharjah’s openness to other cultures and peoples and our committed efforts to promote dialogue and understanding stems from this belief in the positive influence of books and literature.

“In every book fair,” Al Qasimi said, “we’ve experienced magical moments of cultural curiosity, exchange, and learning that have fostered respect for the nations we’ve visited. We always leave book fairs with the firm conviction that through these events we can promote peace, understanding, and respect in this world.

“Book fairs are not just places to buy and sell books or exchange cultural knowledge. They are also key platforms to debate on issues and challenges we face as an industry and as a human family; two of them being climate change and sustainability.”

Sharjah’s Prominance Among Guests of Honor

Above are renderings, representative perspectives from two sides of the guest of honor pavilion designs for Sharjah’s stand at Seoul International Book Fair. Image: Sharjah Book Authority

As the world book publishing industry knows, few markets have made more appearances as a trade-show and book-fair guest of honor—or put into them more programming, design investment, and people on the road to fulfill those commitments–than Sharjah has.

“We always leave book fairs with the firm conviction that through these events we can promote peace, understanding, and respect in this world.”Bodour Al Qasimi, Sharjah Book Authority

Without the name recognition of its two sister emirates Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and despite the delays created for some guest of honor dates by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, one of the key tools the Sharjah Book Authority has used to open its channels of industry and cultural communications has been these guest of honor designations, which now are among the United Arab Emirates’ most recognizable cultural forays.

Sharjah’s appearances have included São Paulo, Moscow, London, Bologna, Guadalajara last December—with its biggest pavilion by Weam Ibrahim’s Q7 team to date—and now Seoul.

The commitment always includes programming as well as rights-trading facilitation and book exhibitions. At Seoul, the Book Authority has organized 33 events across the fair’s five days, including workshops, book signings, and panel discussions. Both Emirati and South Korean writers will be seen on the Sharjah stand through Sunday (June 18) as part of the cultural program offered to attendees at this public-facing fair at Seoul’s Coex Convention and Exhibition Centerin the Gangnam-gu district.

Just as a look at what’s involved in producing an international mission of this kind, the cultural delegation led by Sharjah Book Authority this week comprises the collaborative contributions and representatives of these institutions and organizations:

  • Sharjah’s Government Relations Department
  • Emirates Writers Union
  • Sharjah Broadcasting Authority
  • Sharjah Institute for Heritage
  • Emirates Publishers Association
  • Emirates Reprographic Rights Management Association
  • Sharjah Archaeology Authority
  • The IBBY-affiliated UAE Board on Books for Young People
  • Kalimat Group
  • House of Wisdom
  • Sharjah’s Department of Culture
  • Sharjah’S Commerce and Tourism Development Authority

In a late-arriving note today (June 15), we learn that South Korea has just named the emirate Sharjah as the regional home for Seoul’s King Sejong Institute.

The Sejong, established in 2007, is the Asian nation’s cultural- and language-outreach organization akin to Germany’s Goethe-Institut. Reportedly the King Sejong Institute had 234 venues established in 82 countries in 2021.

Sejong the Great, from which the institute draws its name, was the 15th-century ruler of Korea’s Joseon dynasty.

South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee, her security detail, and Sharjah’s Bodour Al Qasimi at Seoul International Book Fair, June 14. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

More from Publishing Perspectives on Sharjah Book Authority and its work is here, more from us on South Korea’s market is here, more on trade shows and book fairs in the world publishing industry is here, and more on international guest of honor programs is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.