Kuwaiti poetess to be given Manhae literature award

Portrait of Dr. Suad Al-Sabah, by Egyptian artists: Mohammed Haggi.

Last year, in January, Al-Arabi magazine Forum “The Arabs Go East” invited thoughtful elite of the Far East, consisting of very active figures in the fields of culture, arts, and literature.

Among those was Lee Sang-ki, founder of Asian Journalist Association (AJA), and publisher of The AsiaN. He is an expert journalist who loves literature, and believes in the culture of dialogue with the other.

As the poetess Suad Al-Sabah invited visiting guests of the Forum, to her White Palace, there started the dialogue that supported an idea in the mind of Lee Sang-ki to nominate an Arab figure for winning the most prestigious award in South Korea, Manhae Award.

This Manhae Award has been annually given since 1997. Manhae is the pen name of Han Yong-un who devoted his life for promoting the noble goals. He had various careers such as Buddhist monk, reformer and renowned poet. It was inaugurated for the dissemination of the high thinking and noble mind of Reverend Manhae. As a noted poet, Manhae also fought against the tyranny of Japanese colonial rule, armed with the ideas of freedom, equality, harmony and peace.

Major winners of the prize in previous years include former President Kim Dae-jung and Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa. Both were the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. With the help of AJA Middle East Chapter, Lee Sang-ki started preparing a file on the works of Suad Al-Sabah, to introduce her as a poetess, a researcher, and a patronage of culture, arts, literature and science.

The Society for the Promotion and Practice of Manhae’s Thoughts announced earlier last March the winners of the 2012 Manhae Prize given in three different categories. A total of seven winners, two in the peace category, three in social service and two in literature, were chosen from among some 50 candidates across the world.

Suad Al Sabah, was given the award in literature together with Prof. Kim Jae-hong, a literary critic in Korea. The winners in peace category were Aki Ra, a Cambodian peace campaigner, and; Song Wol-ju, a Buddhist monk in Korea. In the social service category, Rene Dupont, Catholic bishop and former head of Andong Catholic Diocese in South Korea,; Dr. Kurt Cribl, mayor of Augsburg, Germany, and; Otani Monshu Koshin, a Buddhist leader in India, were chosen.

The winning announcement mentioned that Dr. Suad Al Sabah “helped in fostering the woman position in the Arab World, as she has been devoted to poetry writing since 1961, with more than 15 volumes of poetry published, and she also assured the importance of having scientific assistance, through her studies, and gave the Arab youths the chances to promote their literary works by her awards”.

Lee Sang-ki(left box) & Award ceremony during the 2008 function

The other literature award winner Kim is now a professor of Kyunghee University in Seoul. He is an expert in modern Korean poetry and was awarded the Manhae prize in recognition of his contribution to research and analysis of modern Korean poetry from the esthetic point of view.

Cambodian peace campaigner Aki Ra, a peace prize winner, is an expert in removing landmines. He leads a campaign in his country to find and remove antipersonnel landmines, which remain throughout the country. He was a Khmer Rouge soldier and was forced to plant as many as 4,000 to 5,000 mines a month when his country was ruled by the tyrannical regime.

The other peace prize winner, Monk Song, 78, has played a leading role in the reform movement of Buddhism in Korea. He was recognized for his devotion to relief activities for people in North Korea and other poor nations.

Bishop Rene Dupont, an awarded in social service, came to Korea in 1954, a year after he was ordained as a Catholic priest in France. He spent his career working to enhance political consciousness of poor farmers through the peasant movement in Korea. He also played a major role in the democratic movement of Korea in 1970s while serving as the head of the Andong Diocese, southeast of Seoul.

Dr. Kurt Cribl, another awarded in social service, is known to have played a pivotal role in making Augsburg a world-renowned Peace City by hosting the Women’s Soccer World Cup and by inaugurating a variety of peace and literary festivals and religious conferences. The German city was the center stage of the Reformation.

Otani Monshu Koshin, the third social service awarded, is the Minister of Buddhism in India. He won the prize in recognition of his contribution to relief activities for Tibetan refugees in his country. He has also directed a project to build houses for poor elderly citizens of his country.

The award-giving ceremony will be held on Aug. 12 this year at Bekdam Temple in East Coast of South Korea where Manhae once stayed for writing  poems during his lifetime. 

However, the Kuwaiti poetess is not going to attend the ceremony herself due to her busy schedule. Her son Mubark Al-Sabah, incumbent Kuwaiti Information Minister, is scheduled to come for the ceremony.  

It is also known that her collected poems will be published in Seoul under the auspices of Lee, AJA founder, in coming September. It will be the first anthology  of Middle Eastern writer to be published in South Korea. She is scheduled to come to Seoul in time for the publication.

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