Koh Buck Song

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Koh Buck Song (family name "Koh") is the author and editor of more than 30 books. He works as a writer, editor and consultant in branding, communications strategy and corporate social responsibility in Singapore. He has held several exhibitions [1] as a Singaporean pioneer of haiga art, developed from a 16th-century Japanese art form combining ink sketches with haiku poems.

Literary & brand consulting career[edit]

Koh Buck Song's books as author and editor include three collections of poetry, several anthologies and the first book on Singapore's country brand, Brand Singapore (2011, translated into Chinese and published in China in 2012, with a second edition in 2017). He was with The Straits Times from 1988 to 1999, where he was literary editor, political supervisor and chief Parliament commentator, arts and features supervisor, and Assistant Editor of a weekly world affairs section. His regular personal opinion column, Monday With Koh Buck Song, ran for almost 10 years. From 2003 to 2004, he was a contributing columnist on current affairs based in the USA for the Singapore newspaper Today. From 2004 to 2005, he was a regular columnist on leadership for The Straits Times.

He was General Editor of the multilingual literary and arts journal Singa in the 1990s. In 1992, he was poet-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh under the Singapore-Scotland Cultural Exchange programme.[2] He has represented Singapore at literary conferences including at Cambridge (UK) and Manila, and in poetry readings at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA. He has spoken extensively on brand Singapore overseas, including as keynote speaker at a City Nation Place global conference in London;[3] at a Pacific Economic Cooperation Council seminar in Tahiti;[4] at the Japan Foundation in Tokyo as a cultural leader of Singapore; and the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University.[5]

His public service has included being Deputy Chairman of the Censorship Review Committee 2009–10,[6] and also a member of the Censorship Review Committees of 1991–92 and 2002–03, the only person to have served on all three panels.[7]


Selected Works:

  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2018). Making Cities Liveable: Insights From 10 Years Of Lectures At The Centre for Liveable Cities. ISBN 978-981-1176-39-5.
  • Koh, Buck Song (second edition, 2017). Brand Singapore: Nation Branding After Lee Kuan Yew, In A Divisive World. ISBN 978-981-4779-24-1.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2016). Our Guardians: Keeping Singapore Safe And Secure Since The 1950s. ISBN 978-981-46-4242-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2014). Learning For Life: Singapore’s Investment In Lifelong Learning Since The 1950s. ISBN 978-981-09-1776-0.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2012). Perpetual Spring: Singapore's Gardens By The Bay. ISBN 978-981-4398-18-3 (hardcover). ISBN 978-981-2618-47-4 (paperback).
  • Koh, Buck Song (2011). Brand Singapore: How Nation Branding Built Asia's Leading Global City. ISBN 978-981-4328-15-9.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2011). Living With The End In Mind: A Study Of How To Increase The Quality Of Death In Singapore – Perspectives Of 30 Leaders, Lien Foundation.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2011). Heart Work 2: EDB And Partners: New Frontiers For The Singapore Economy. ISBN 978-981-4342-01-8.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2008). Heartlands: Home And Nation In The Art Of Ong Kim Seng. ISBN 978-981-08-1618-6.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2005). How Not To Make Money: Inside Stories From Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department. ISBN 981-05-4384-0.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2003). The Ocean Of Ambition. ISBN 981-248-020-X.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, with Bhatia, Umej, 2002). From Boys To Men: A Literary Anthology Of National Service In Singapore. ISBN 981-3065-67-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2002). Heart Work: Stories Of How EDB Steered The Singapore Economy From 1961 Into The 21st Century. ISBN 981-04-6906-3.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2001). The Worth Of Wonder. ISBN 981-232-180-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2000). Toa Payoh: Our Kind Of Neighbourhood. Housing and Development Board, Singapore. ISBN 981-232-124-1.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, with Ban, Kah Choon et al., 1995). Voices 4 – Readings By Singapore Writers. National University of Singapore. ISBN 981-00-4745-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (1994), Thumboo, Edwin Nadason (1933– ), in Hamilton, Ian, ed., The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866147-4.
  • Koh, Buck Song (text and poetry editor, with introduction, 1993). Singapore: Places, Poems, Paintings. ISBN 981-00-4559-X.
  • Koh, Buck Song (1992). A Brief History Of Toa Payoh And Other Poems. ISBN 981-00-3426-1.

Selected works in anthologies & other books:

  • Gwee Li Sui, (editor, 2016). Written Country: The History of Singapore through Literature. ISBN 9789814189668.
  • Poon, Angelia; Holden, Philip & Lim, Shirley Geok-lin (editors, 2009). Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology Of Singapore Literature. National University of Singapore Press, Singapore. ISBN 978-9971-69-486-9. ISBN 978-9971-69-458-6.
  • Thumboo, Edwin & Yeow, Kai Chai (editors, 2009). Reflecting On The Merlion: An Anthology Of Poems. National Arts Council, Singapore. ISBN 978-981-08-4300-7.
  • ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (2000). Modern Literature of ASEAN.
  • Singh, Kirpal (editor, et al. 2000). Rhythms: A Singaporean Millennial Anthology Of Poetry. National Arts Council, Singapore. ISBN 9971-88-763-0.
  • Sionil Jose, Francisco (1991). New Voices In Southeast Asia. Solidarity, Manila, Philippines.

Selected haiga art exhibitions & talks[edit]

  • "Six Views Of Japan And Singapore". Super Japan Festival of Japanese Arts. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. May 2016
  • "Refleksi: A Pantun Art Exhibition (using the Malay poetic form pantun). National Poetry Festival. LASALLE College of the Arts. August 2016
  • "Between Japan And Singapore: Haiga And Its Modern Legacy". Singapore Writers Festival. The Arts House at the Old Parliament. November 2016
  • "ASEAN@50 Haiga: Vientiane 2017". ASEAN Insurance Council. Vientiane, Laos. November 2017

Further reading[edit]

  • National Library, Singapore. Chua, Alvin: Singapore Infopedia:[8]
  • National Arts Council, Singapore – Literary Singapore: A Directory of Contemporary Writing in Singapore 2011.
  • National Book Development Council of Singapore. Database of Singapore Writers:[9]
  • Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. 2006 media coverage by faculty: "Anyone can be a leader, not just the man at the top":[10]
  • Singapore Management University. Knowledge@SMU: "Singapore’s brand “keloid”: Going beyond canes and chewing gums", July 2011:[11]
  • Institute of Policy Studies. Roundtable: "Brand Singapore", May 2011:[12]
  • Public Service Division, Singapore. Challenge magazine: "Branding Singapore Softly, Quietly" July–August 2011:[13]
  • Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. Author interview by Toh, Hsien Min: "Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng", January 2003:[14]


  1. ^ See media reports including "Blending art and poetry". The Straits Times. 21 May 2016. "10 Japanese haiga to celebrate Asean's 50th". The Business Times. 5 August 2017. Tani, Mayuko. Nikkei Marketing Journal, Japan. 6 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Eastern promise is sheer poetry". The Herald, Scotland. 8 October 1992.
  3. ^ "Brand Singapore moves into a new era". The Business Times. 9 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Tourism needs more cultural immersion". The Business Times. 1 December 2017.
  5. ^ "The place of country branding in public policy: a case study of Singapore". Oxford University. January 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hYQZY38wWg
  6. ^ Media Development Authority website: http://www.mda.gov.sg/Public/Consultation/Pages/CRC.aspx Archived 29 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "When liberal desires meet conservative fears", Long, Susan, The Straits Times 25 September 1999.
  8. ^ National Library Board, Singapore. "Koh Buck Song". Archived from the original on 7 March 2012.
  9. ^ NBDCS. "Sitemap - NBDCS".
  10. ^ "Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy". Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Perspectives@SMU".
  12. ^ "Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy" (PDF). Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Branding Singapore Softly, Quietly".
  14. ^ "QLRS: Interview with Koh Buck Song - Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003".