A PEN center for North Korean writers was approved to join PEN International on Friday, a writers’ association promoting freedom of speech.
The decision was made at the 78th International PEN Congress in Gyeongju.
“We hope to let the world know how much writers in North Korea are suffering,” said Jang Hae-sung, a former writer for North Korea’s state broadcaster Korean Central Television (KCTV) who now lives in the South. Jang will lead the new branch.
A group of 29 writers who defected from North Korea will set up the center to promote freedom of expression. A vote was held during the congress among the heads of PEN centers worldwide Friday to approve the new one for North Korean defectors. Ahead of the vote, a group of North Korean defector writers spoke at a literature forum in Gyeongju on Tuesday, recounting their experiences of oppression and calling on support for freedom of speech in the Stalinist state.
It marks the 144th center of PEN International. Under the theme “Literature, Media, and Human Rights,” the congress hosts forums, lectures and recitation of poems. The recent PEN Congress closed Saturday.
Since the establishment of PEN International in 1921, it has promoted literature, defended the freedom of expression and developed a community of writers worldwide. There are 143 centers in 102 countries. The Korean PEN center was set up in 1954, immediately after the 1950-1953 Korean War.