Readers in Korea and Taiwan live contemporaneous lives. They walk down the streets of Seoul and Taipei in similar outfits and listen to the same music. Lounging in cafes, they sip on coffee while reading the same books. Notwithstanding the two and a half hours needed to traverse the distance between us, our lives flow concurrently. Having endured the similar adversities of colonialism, division, and authoritarianism, even our concerns overlap. There are generations. The generation that painstakingly achieved economic development has waned; slower economic development and low growth riddle our youth with new worries, pushing their dreams of a peaceful, normal life out of reach. There is gender. As stereotypical, Confucianist gender roles and relations are rapidly dismantled, we now find the need to reimagine gender altogether.
Generation X, Y, Z, and millennial Koreans now seek out Taiwan, armed with stories created by nurturing different thoughts in the same spatiotemporal setting. As visitors in Taiwan, which was the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage and is currently helmed by exemplary female leadership in the COVID-19 era, we look forward to discussing Korea’s effort made thus far to reimagine gender beyond just male and female. It goes without saying that we are not the same. But Korea and Taiwan have honored their differences while achieving mutual growth. By enjoying the same things as different people, we build a foundation for friendship. This friendship stayed foremost in our minds as we prepared our guest of honor program for the Taipei International Book Exhibition. We hope to deepen our friendship while sharing our concerns through books.
As the guest of honor at the Moscow International Book Fair 2020, Korea proposes “Future-ing” for the main theme. As civilization evolves in the 21st century, the future hits us with a sense of materiality and reality that seems inexplicable, for it comes from a time that hasn’t yet arrived. The future is already here in some places—progressing, discreetly entangled with the present—presenting itself in different forms amid premonitions and images of revelation or apocalypse. We are witnessing today the “affect,” or embodiment, of the future, as the force with which it hauls the present forward is equal to that of the history that defines the current moment.
The future society of the 21st century has already permeated our reality in the form of a techno-utopia. The remarkable advancement of science and technology is bringing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, led by artificial intelligence. Twentieth-century cities are transforming into smart cities, as the Internet of Things, augmented reality, and the digital universe infiltrate deep into the physical world, transforming the structure of daily experiences. As it translates biological traces into algorithms, data is evolving to create a new kind of capitalism—one built on technologies that can predict human judgment and behavior.
At the same time, climate change and related ecological problems forecast macroscopic shifts in Earth’s ecosystem summarized as the Anthropocene , alerting us to the need to recalibrate the future from a completely different perspective. One of the major challenges in the future will be to construct a new “socio-politico-literary life” that can address points of contention such as economic and gender inequality, while versatile and imaginative approaches will be required to resolve these issues. How will humanity deal with an imminent and unprecedented future in which it will face post-humanistic transitions and post-truth phenomena?
This year’s book fair will be a valuable opportunity to explore how Korean intellectuals envision the imminent future, to question and reflect on how Korean literature is tackling these topics, and to find out what conversations Korea and Russia can hold on these issues.