By sharing the [Korean] script with others, Ms. Lee said, she is simply expressing the will of her ancestor King Sejong, who promulgated the script. (She is a direct descendant, 21 generations removed.)
The national holiday, Hangul Day, on Oct. 9, celebrates the king’s introduction of the script in 1446. Before that, Koreans had no writing system of their own. The elite studied Chinese characters to record the meaning, but not the sound, of Korean.
“Many of my illiterate subjects who want to communicate cannot express their concerns,” the king is recorded to have said in explaining the reason for Hunminjeongeum, the original name for Hangul. “I feel sorry for them. Therefore I have created 28 letters.”
“The king propagated Hangul out of love of his people,” Ms. Lee said. “It’s time for Koreans to expand his love for mankind by propagating Hangul globally. This is an era of globalization.”
The idea of a city of books evokes a fantastical vision: towers of tottering volumes, narrow alleys formed by canyons and stacks of dusty hardbacks, formal avenues between loaded shelves. Like something imagined by Calvino or Borges, it conjures up a city of wisdom and surprise, of endless narratives, meaning, knowledge and languages. What it does not evoke is an industrial estate bounded by a motorway and the heavily guarded edge of a demilitarised zone. Yet somehow, South Korea’s Paju Book City begins to reconcile these two extremes into one of the most unexpected and remarkable architectural endeavours.
Built on marshland, former flood plains and paddyfields 30km north-west of Seoul, Paju Book City is an attempt to create an ambitious new town based exclusively around publishing....
At the centre of the city stands a huge cultural complex, designed by Kim Byung-yoon, a combination of hotel (in which, it was pointed out to me, there are no TVs), restaurants, auditoriums and, on the roof, an urbane, elevated realm of seating, shops, libraries and galleries overlooking the sparkling waters of the river and the Simhak Mountain.