Wonju, a city in the Republic of Korea, with some 350,000 inhabitants, has a strong literary tradition, represented by internationally renowned writers including Park Kyong-Ni, whose work ‘Toji’ has already been recognized by UNESCO. As of 2016, 4.5% of Wonju’s regional GDP comes from culture, amounting to an estimated US$ 310 million. Though still a relatively niche sector, about 100 professional writers are active in Wonju.
Every year, Wonju hosts a variety of economic and cultural activities in the field of literature, led by, amongst others, the Wonju Cultural Foundation and Wonju Cultural Center. The Wonju Cultural Foundation has hosted a storybook fair since 2016 and invited writers and editors to participate in forums and experiential events. However, it is the legacy of Park Kyong-Ni which remains the biggest draw to the city. The Toji Culture Center, founded in the author’s memory, has been running a residency programme for writers since 2001, having benefited 1,000 Korean writers, as well as 120 international writers from 30 countries, whilst at the same time hosting lectures and symposiums for local writers. Furthermore, the Park Kyong-Ni Literary Award, founded in 2011, has been awarded to eight writers from seven countries.
Based on their city’s key policies, the local government of Wonju is seeking new ways for urban development and transforming itself into the country’s creative cultural city by revitalizing intangible cultural heritage, hosting creative people, and synergizing literature and other creative sectors. To this end the city will support the establishment of cooperative associations and social enterprises in publishing, literature education, and literary tourism. On a national level, Wonju was chosen as the pilot city of the national government's innovative new urban development policy, which has resulted in attracting creative human resources to the city.
As a Creative City of Literature, Wonju envisages:
- contributing to the exchange of information on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, and the enhancement of exchange and cooperation among member cities by hosting residency programmes and international forums on literature and creative industries;
- contributing to strengthening the diversity in the network of Creative Cities of Literature through exchange and cooperation with cities in the Global South, focusing on Africa and the Arab States; and
- contributing to the development of policies on creative industrialization and presentation of a new urban development model through the establishment and management of cooperative associations in various creative fields.