Interview with Mr. Lee Yong-il, Counseller and Consul General of the South Korean Embassy in Bucharest (2)

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Published on iunie 17, 2011 with Niciun comentariu

KoreaFilm: What history do Korean-Romanian cultural diplomacy and cultural exchange have? Do specific programs exist between the two countries?

Lee Yong-il: The diplomatic history between these two countries is shorter than in other cases. Due to the fact that Romania was a socialist country, we did not have diplomatic ties until 20 years ago. Romania had diplomatic ties with North Korea. Since the democratic revolution in 1989, we have opened diplomatic relations and last year we marked 20 years of diplomatic relations between Romania and South Korea. However, we believe Romania has a big potential for cultural diplomacy. Compared with other cases, the volume of cultural exchanges between the two countries has developed. There are exchange programmes for Korean and Romanian students. K-dramas are broadcast and have become popular, same as Korean movies. The Romanian government is planning to open a Romanian Cultural Institute in Seoul, to promote Romanian culture in Korea. At the beginning of our diplomatic relations, our governments were not interested so much in promoting cultural exchanges, but now we find, day by day, that there is a big potential in cultural exchanges. We have concluded cultural agreements between the two countries, through which we have educational programs and Romanian students receive scholarships in science, technology, education or art.

KF: Speaking about cultural exchanges, do you have any plan to open a Korean Cultural Centre in Bucharest?

LYI: We are planning to relocate the Embassy to other area, to a bigger location, which will allow us to have larger space that we can rearrange for cultural activities and information. If we have a big space, we might be able to have a Cultural Centre in the Embassy.

KF: During your time in Bucharest, what would you like to achieve with regards to the cultural diplomatic relationships between South Korea and Romania?

LYI: First of all, I have to say that I appreciate that you help our Embassy to make a progress in spreading the Korean culture here in Romania. I fully appreciate HanSaMo’s activity. My ambitions are very big. I think that, since the 19th century, you have imported a lot from the Western cultures (French, British, German), which have contributed very much to the modernization of Romania. I admit Western culture is dominating and Romania clearly belongs to the Western cultural group. Nowadays, Romania is now supported by the EU and American alliance. However, the other side of the gate should be open to other cultures, such as East Asia. In this respect, we would like Korean culture to be an alternative for Romanians, to be taken into consideration for a larger cultural development in Romania. Frankly speaking, I dare to say that we would compete with American and Western European cultures by bringing Hallyu into Romania, through Korean movies, K-dramas, popular music and even our philosophy. Simply put, we can say we have an “indie” culture. If you attended the Busan International Film Festival, you could find that from the beginning of the festival we are armoured with an “indie” spirit, an artistic spirit or attitude. We do not consider film just as kind of commerce or industry. We really love film as our life. Our passion and “indie” spirit will help Romanians understand and adopt Korean culture as an alternative and as a part of their lifestyle. This is my ambition while I work as a cultural diplomat in Bucharest.

KF: Why do you think is South Korea so attractive for Romanians? Which are the main attractions of Korean culture?

LYI: It’s very difficult to say. However, compared with other European countries, the rating of the Korean pop, the Korean drama is higher here. Why? Romania is located on the edge of Western Europe and at the same time, opened to the other areas, especially over the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Romania is looking towards Western Europe and America, also holding some interest for Asian cultures. The Korean culture has unique virtues that Romanians may have forgotten during the modernization with the Western countries, Western civilizations, such as the ethical values, the public mind, the importance of families and friendship. For Korean popular music, the rhythm, the beat and the body motion are different from those of American styles. This might help Romania understand the appealing attraction of Korea’s culture.

Photo: Alisa Tarciniu

KF: How would you encourage cultural exchanges between the two countries?

LYI: Frankly speaking, this Embassy is a very small one. It is composed of six diplomats, including the Ambassador. Well, we have a lot of work we have to do, some political, economical, business and cultural, etc. I’ll do my best to make out occasions of cultural projects – exhibitions and events – and also help HanSaMo develop good programs. And possibly, in a nearer future, it might be best for the Embassy to have a Korean cultural centre where on a regular basis, for example every weekend, every Friday or Wednesday the Korean movies or Korean language classes can take place.

KF: How do you see the situation of Romanian tourists in Korea and Korean tourists in Romania? What can be done to encourage these tourism exchanges, and especially cultural tourism?

LYI: I spent three full years in Thailand, which has every year more than 1 million Korean tourists. But, when I arrived here, it is very rare for me to meet Korean travellers, Korean tourist groups. This was that disappointing. There are some reasons why so many Korean tourists would not come here. It’s so far away from my country, as the first element, the geographical isolation. The second: Koreans peoples would be engaged in some Western European countries, like Italy, France or Greece or Britain. However, I think how to promote South Korea tourism here, in Romania, is a matter of time. Why? I believe Korean people will turn their eyes to Romania, which has a big potential for tourist development, some wild and very beautiful sceneries, the Carpathians, all beautiful deltas, and very beautiful beaches in Mamaia and the Black Sea area, very beautiful cultural heritage, from Suceava to Muntenia. I am sure Romania would after several years become one of the most attractive destinations for Koreans.

KF: Which are your plans for the near future?

LYI: Within one year, I will come back to my country, to work at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before my definite departure from Romania, I would like to see Korean culture become an alternative to the Western cultures here, in Romania.

KF: What are your hobbies, interests and favourite pastimes?

LYI: I play golf and tennis, I have many sport activities. I like Ilie Nastase, who was my hero when I was a very young boy. Anyway, he was kind of naughty player, but he’s OK. Then, some other players were same…

Mr. Lee Yong-il and KoreaFilm team
Photo: Alisa Tarciniu

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