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South Koreans use scent of culture to bring nations together


By M. A. Saki
- Tehran Times

SEOUL, South Korea -- At first glance, many people may think that South Korea is mainly an industrial country. However, South Korea enjoys a very deep culture and ancient history. In addition, Korean people cherish peace, democracy, and human rights, and efforts are also underway in South Korea to promote cultural exchanges between Korean people and other nations in response to the needs of modern times.

South Korea seeks rapprochement between different cultures across the world. In line with this strategy, the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE) was established in 2003 with the aim of promoting understanding between cultures, especially among Asian countries.

KOFICE encourages a correct understanding of different cultures and acts as the civilian exchange window for mutual cooperation. KOFICE is in fact a timely and proper response to globalization as the development of digital technology in the 21st century transcends national borders and even emotion.

 
As one of its main principles, KOFICE says: “We deliver the scent of culture to the world, and suggest the right directions. When we share our scent, the heart of the world becomes one.”

The organization has launched television and other media programs to promote tourist attractions and the tourism industry in South Korea and other countries with the aim of promoting the proximity of nations.

It also plans various cultural enterprises, ranging from traditional to modern, especially with countries in Southeast and Central Asia.

KOFICE has overseas correspondents and cultural experts who work in major cities around the world, contributing to cultural exchanges by providing and sharing world cultural enterprises.

As a professional center, a committee consisting of South Korean cultural experts gives advice to KOFICE on how to implement its projects successfully. It holds seminars to understand the different cultures of countries through future-oriented popular cultural exchanges.

Koreans’ hospitality toward foreigners is so enchanting that no visitor can ever forget it. Everyone that you meet in South Korea says, “I hope you will enjoy your stay in Korea.”

Support for human rights

 
The South Koreans are a peaceful people and defenders of human rights. One can see the younger generation working to obtain reparations for the Korean “comfort women” who were abused by Japanese soldiers during World War II. South Korean human rights activists have been campaigning for the recognition of the human rights of the victims of the Japanese military’s sexual slavery and all women who have suffered in wars. They take care of the elderly women and have been converging in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday since 1992. The activists plan to build a War and Women’s Human Rights Museum. Through the museum, they hope to restore the honor and dignity of the victims and prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy in the future. They also plan to address the serious issues of violence against women who are being abused in war or war-like situations around the world.

As a group of reporters from the Middle East were meeting with the KOFICE director in Seoul on November 22, the shouts of human rights activists who were protesting against Israel for committing atrocities against the Palestinian people could be heard from a nearby street.

Incheon reaches out to the world

In line with efforts to bring nations closer together, the Incheon Center for International Cooperation and Exchange (ICICE) was founded in 2005. The main role of the ICICE, as a non-governmental and non-profit organization, is to act as a bridge between Incheon and other cities across the world, including those in the Middle East, contribute to inter-Korean affairs and promote peace among the nations in Northeast Asia, collect and provide information and data relevant to international affairs, help in hosting and organizing international events, conferences and organizations in the Incheon metropolitan area, and develop programs to increase citizens’ knowledge of international affairs. The center also plans to act as an essential base for interactive affairs with North Korea.

The center has “great ambitions”. It plans to establish a UN office for information technology. It also plans to organize student exchange programs with other nations and language classes for minorities, including Muslims, living in South Korea in order to help them make their lives happier.

Incheon is gaining international recognition as a hub city of Northeast Asia in the 21st century with a number of attractive features such as the Incheon International Airport.

The desire for reunification

All Koreans long for a peaceful settlement of the thorny issues of the Korean peninsula and all of East Asia. They are impatiently awaiting reunification of the two Koreas. Every South Korean that you meet immediately says, “We wish to rejoin each other soon.” They lament the fact that some family members who were separated during the Korean War may never get a chance to see their relatives again since they are getting old and may die soon.

At the War Museum in Seoul, a huge statue speaks volumes. It depicts a chance meeting on the battlefield between a South Korean Army officer and his younger brother, who was a soldier in the North Korean Army. The two are embracing each other. The statue explains very clearly how the Koreans feel sad about the 1950-1953 Korean War and hope for reunification. It shows how the hearts of people on both sides of the peninsula beat for each other.

Success through hard work

South Koreans’ desire for cultural connections between nations, peace, democracy, and human rights is as strong as their work ethic, which has made their country the 11th largest economy in the world. A slogan written in the POSCO Steel Museum by a construction crew which says “If we fail, we should all do a ‘right face’ and drown ourselves in Yeongil Bay” clearly illustrates South Koreans’ strong resolve for development.

South Korea’s annual exports were projected to exceed the landmark $300 billion mark by early December 2006. By the end of the year, exports are estimated to hit $318 billion. It is a great leap and a source of great pride for all South Koreans and those who love South Korea.

South Koreans should be proud of themselves since they have transformed their country from a poor Third World country into a great economic power in a very short time. The major economic powers were colonial powers and exploited the resources of other countries to reach the economic heights, committing flagrant human rights violations and even war crimes along the way. However, Koreans were themselves victims of colonialism, but South Korea has emerged as a player able to challenge the great economic powers.

Seoul is also moving to play an important political role in the international arena commensurate with its economic and democratic status, especially since South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was recently elected to be the next United Nations secretary general. It was a great success for South Korea because it only joined the UN in 1991, after the end of the Cold War. However, after 15 years, its foreign minister succeeded in gaining the title of the world’s chief diplomat.

Today, people around the world are familiar with the name of South Korea since its industrial products have made the country famous. Hopefully, South Korea’s experience of development through hard work will serve as a model for all countries in the Third World.

 

 

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