It is exhilarating news indeed to learn of the coming release of Lee Tae Bok, a South Korean publisher, who has been a prisoner of that government since 1982. Bok had been adopted by our own Los Angeles PEN Center to help secure his freedom. We are justly proud that once more the voices of free writers of the outside world have succeeded in influencing the fate of writers and thinkers under repressive regimes.
But a word of caution is in order even in this moment of victory. I read the recent account of the 52nd Congress of the International PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists) held in Seoul, Korea, as recorded by Digby Diehl in these pages (Book Review, Sept. 11). I, too, served as a member of the Los Angeles delegation. For the record, I feel it necessary to clarify some of the details of that event.
Diehl was absolutely correct in his description of controversy and divided opinion within the PEN organization in Seoul. However, what caused that situation wasn't made specific. It was not, as Diehl reports, that the American PEN Center (New York) held a party inviting the families of imprisoned writers (all centers including our own had been invited); rather it was that these American sponsors acted unilaterally in their decision to hold a press conference at their reception, despite urgent requests from the international board to delay such sessions until the congress had completed its investigation and deliberations.