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Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Kim Keon-hee, during the tour at the opening of the Seoul International Book Fair

Seoul: The 65th Seoul International Book Fair commenced on Wednesday with an inspiring Korean-Emirati cultural dialogue.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, hoisted the UAE flag high in celebration of Sharjah's participation as the Guest of Honour at the Seoul Book Fair.

This vibrant cross-cultural exchange will continue to grow, flourish and inspire over the next four days until June 18, and testifies to the prestigious literary event’s deep appreciation for the emirate’s unparalleled expertise in translating the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to build bridges with nations and cities worldwide.

The book fair’s opening ceremony was held in the presence of Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah’s Government Relations Department (DGR) and head of the Sharjah delegation to Seoul; Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Book Authority Board (SBA); Sheikh Saud Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Director of the Sharjah Digital Office; Kim Keon-hee, First Lady of the Republic of Korea; Abdulla Saif Ali Slayem Al Nuaimi, UAE Ambassador to the Republic of Korea; Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA); Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA; Dr Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage; Cheol-ho Yoon, Chairman of the Korean Publishers Association and Chairman of Seoul International Book Fair and other senior officials.

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Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Kim Keon-hee, during the tour at the opening of the Seoul International Book Fair

The Sharjah delegation includes 180 representatives from government institutions and UAE media, who as part of the emirate’s Guest of Honour programme, will advance His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah’s cultural project that fuels global cultural exchange by presenting fair visitors, publishers, educators, and others a vivid picture of the emirate’s successful experience in disseminating knowledge, art, and literature.

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In his keynote speech, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of DGR, and head of the Sharjah delegation praised South Korea’s leading efforts to preserve its heritage, and also successfully adopt technology to immerse the world in its literature, culture, language, food and entertainment.

“It is something I understand very well because His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has been leading Sharjah the same way,” he further remarked adding that it is this very “vision for development of education, culture and knowledge while protecting our heritage, and a vision to build innovation on the backbone of a strong and unique identity in a more and more homogenous global culture” that nurtures successive generations with a deep rooted mutual respect and understanding of other cultures.

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Kim Keon-hee with other delegates during the Seoul International Book Fair Image Credit: WAM

In conclusion, the DGR Chairman said: “The presence of Sharjah as a Guest of Honour at the Seoul International Book Fair raises a fundamental question for us: why are we here and what do we want to offer the Korean audience? We are not here just to showcase our publications, or our cultural, artistic and literary initiatives and events. We are 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 amongst 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.”

Investing in culture

For her part, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SBA said: “Sharjah and South Korea share a common experience in investing in culture to create a flourishing cultural scene that inspires the world and contributes to socioeconomic progress. For over five decades, the emirate has built a cultural environment centred 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 very belief in the positive influence of books and literature.”

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“In every book fair, we have experienced magical moments of cultural curiosity, exchange and learning that have fostered respect for the nations we have 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,” she added.

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The First Lady of South Korea

In her keynote speech, Kim Keon-hee, First Lady of the Republic of Korea, expressed her happiness about hosting Sharjah at the book fair, and lauded its Guest of Honour programme featuring creative initiatives, cultural, artistic and literary events designed for the 5-day event. The First Lady warmly welcomed all participating Korean and international publishers, praising their influential role in supporting and developing the publishing and creative industries. Keon-hee also emphasised on the role of the Seoul Book Fair as a platform for cultural exchange and as a hub for learning about the latest trends in publishing, education, art and writing.

Book fairs represent the essence of human culture

Cheol-ho Yoon described book fairs as the crossing of an annual milestone for passionate readers and cultural enthusiasts. He stated that the book fair in Seoul reflects the essence of human culture and the roots of Korean literature, and provides an opportunity to learn about other cultures. He also praised the role of publishers in contributing to peace and development in the world. He added: “We are grateful to Sharjah, our Guest of Honour, which enjoys a rich history of constructive cultural work that has earned the city a leading position in the cultural industry. We look forward to learning more about the emirate’s experiences and initiatives in spreading knowledge and dialogue among peoples”.

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Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Kim Keon-hee, during the tour at the opening of the Seoul International Book Fair

Sharjah pavilion inauguration

The opening day of the Seoul book fair witnessed the official inauguration of the Sharjah Guest of Honour pavilion. Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi and Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi accompanied the First Lady of the Republic of Korea, diplomats and senior officials from cultural, creative and media institutions in South Korea on a tour of the pavilion. Visitors were introduced to Sharjah’s leading projects in various fields including art, heritage, creative industries, translation and publishing. Officials were also briefed on the literary works from Sharjah on display, including literary works by His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah that visitors to the event can enrich their personal libraries with.

The Chairman of the Seoul International Book Fair accompanied Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, and the UAE delegation on a tour of the fair’s pavilions, where they engaged with publishers and learned about their latest releases in various fields, and exchanged conversations with, authors, and visitors from Korea, the UAE, and the world.

At the end of the opening ceremony, the Sharjah National Band performed a traditional Emirati song and dance on the main stage of the fair, showcasing aspects of the UAE’s heritage, culture and identity. The band demonstrated their skills in presenting folk dances that tell stories of the ancestral lifestyle of Sharjah residents and the UAE, which was well-liked by the audience.

33 activities by 13 cultural institutions

SBA, in collaboration with a number of cultural institutions in Sharjah, is organising a wide-ranging cultural programme that extends over five days and includes 33 events, including panel discussions, workshops, book signings, literary and artistic activities that reflect the heritage of the emirate and the UAE. The Sharjah pavilion will host Emirati and South Korean writers, creators, and academics who will participate in various events to enhance the emirate’s presence in the global cultural scene.

The cultural delegation led by SBA includes 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 UAE Board on Books for Young People, Kalimat Group, House of Wisdom, Sharjah Department of Culture, and Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

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