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Paju Fair_Book & Culture to bring books to stage in September

Edinburgh Fringe-inspired performing arts festival to explore stories rooted in books

May 30, 2024 - 16:17 By Hwang Dong-hee
Song Seung-hwan, general director of the Paju Fair_Book & Culture, speaks during a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Newsis)

Paju Book City will be transformed into a vibrant performing arts festival site in September, showcasing a variety of performances rooted in books.

The inaugural edition of the Paju Fair_Book & Culture will take place Sept. 6 to 9, aiming to bring fresh energy to the cultural complex of publishers and printing houses located in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

The fair endeavors to explore and expand cultural and artistic narratives rooted in literature while serving as a global platform for their international distribution.

A scene from musical production "Winter Wanderer" (Acom Musical)

“The main purpose of the fair is to create, present and distribute new content with books as the primary inspiration. Our goal is not just to create plays, musicals, films and music but to establish a platform for distributing these works in the global market,” said Song Seung-hwan, the general director of the inaugural fair, during a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday.

Song, CEO and artistic director of PMC Production, is well-known as an actor and the producer of the non-verbal comedy show, “Nanta,” as well as the general director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. “Nanta” successfully made its international debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1999.

“‘Nanta’ was the very first Korean show introduced at the Edinburgh Festival, and the results were very good. Thanks to Edinburgh, ‘Nanta’ became popular and is still performed around the world 365 days a year," he said.

Song added that the key focus of the fair is the fringe showcases, designed to support and promote works to overseas markets, aspiring to surpass the success of "Nanta." The fringe works will be selected through a contest, with submissions open until Friday for both the book-based and free categories. A total of eight works will be selected, and after the fair, two final selections will receive up to 50 million won ($3,662) each.

"The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has about an 80-year history, and the Adelaide Fringe a 60-year history. We do not expect immediate results from the Paju Fair. Our aim is to develop the festival over at least 5-10 years to create a global market," Song said.

From left: Jace Oh, general producer of the PFBC; Song Seung-hwan, general director of the PFBC; Ko Yeong-eun, chair of the Bookcity Culture Foundation; and Rep. Yoon Hu-duk of Paju from the Democratic Party of Korea attend a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday. (PFBC)

Under the slogan, "Books Alive," the 2024 Paju Fair_Book & Culture hopes for books to be reborn with new vitality.

Kicking off with a park concert starring musical actors Kim So-hyun, Son Jun-ho and Oh Man-seok, the fair will offer a rich array of events, including: family musical “The Jungle Book;” musical “Winter Wanderer” adapted from literary heavyweight Choi In-ho's novel; play “Two Nights and Three Days with My Mother,” based on the novel by Ko Hye-jung; one-person reading performances by veteran actors; a book market; an art market; talks and IP business networking.

All performances are free of charge, with plans to introduce paid admission gradually starting next year.

"Our goal for the Paju Fair_Book & Culture is to achieve financial independence within five years. We plan to establish a mid-to-long-term strategy to continue the fair sustainably and aim to increase Paju residents' participation to 20 percent,” said Ko Yeong-eun, chair of the Bookcity Culture Foundation.