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Culture and Arts consolidate friendship

In 2011, Korean culture and arts have effloresced across the globe. The Korean wave, powered by TV dramas and more recently pop music, has steadily gained popularity over the last decade across Asia and beyond, reaching as far as Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. The enthusiasm for Korean entertainment and pop culture has left curious Hallyu fans overseas craving to discover other aspects of Korean culture and traditions.

This May’s flash mob rally in front of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris demonstrates that Hallyu has reached new heights, growing into a movement involving voluntary participation of a local fan base, as fans gathered to request an extension of Paris’ first K-pop concert. The bandied-about protest -- quickly spreading through Youtube and other social media channels -- inspired K-pop aficionados residing in other countries to hold similar demonstrations in the U.S., UK, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates.

The year of 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), the Korean government’s official cultural promotion agency, which is at the forefront of enhancing diplomatic ties through bolstering cultural exchanges.

It was also a year full of commemoration to celebrate anniversaries of diplomatic relations. In 2011, KOCIS oversaw celebratory events in partnership with five countries including Belgium (110th) Netherlands (50th), Greece (50th), Portugal (50th), and Australia (50th), alongside events associated with the Year of Friendship with India, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.

In commemoration, a considerable amount of Korean cultural events organized across the globe welcomed audiences, continually exceeding initial expectations. In March, the Select Citywalk in Saket District, New Delhi was overcrowded with a massive number of people who came to view the opening ceremony of the Year of Korea. In Kazakhstan, over 5,000 spectators flocked to the Year of Korea venue, which had just 3,000 seats.

Exhibitions and performances blending Korean traditional components with modern arts made an impression on locals, garnering rave reviews and responses. In April, during a cultural event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Korea-Australia diplomatic ties, some of Australia’s leading figures highly praised the reinterpretation of traditional costume, Hanbok, and traditional music performances, calling it the “Rediscovery of Asia.”

On August 19 at a performance organized as part of the 50th anniversary of relations with the Netherlands, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra had to extend their performance, as the audience shouted “Encore” twice. The performance led by Maestro Chung Myung-whun received favorable reviews from local press agencies such as De Telegraff and

In October, a set of Korean cultural festivals toured Mexico City, Mexico, and Buenos Aires, Argentina to showcase the dynamic features of Korean traditions and stage performances from diverse Korean genres. The festival wrapped up in its final destination of Hawaii to mark the island state’s APEC Summit. Until recently Latin America remained a region where knowledge of Korea was relatively low, yet K-pop is gaining momentum, catching the interest of younger generations.

The Korean government has sought bilateral engagement and communication rather than the unilateral distribution of information, in organizing a series of cultural events tailored to each region based on their understanding of Korean culture.

There were also many notable cultural presentations and exchanges led by civic groups, especially in the domain of fine arts. This summer, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented a major retrospective of Korean-Japanese artist Lee Ufan, inviting viewers for a meditative moment. “Marking Infinity,” by Lee Ufan was the museum’s third exhibition devoted to an Asian artist after Nam June Paik in 2000 and Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang in 2008.

A few blocks down the Museum Mile from the Guggenheim, a special loan exhibition was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring Korean Buncheong Ceramics from the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. The “Poetry in Clay” exhibit provided a rare opportunity for international audiences to explore the beauty of ancient Korean ceramics and some of the nation’s registered national treasures.

“The year of 2011 has seen fruitful results in endorsed diplomatic ties through cultural exchanges,” said Seo Kang-soo, Director of KOCIS. "It was a year where the 40 years of KOCIS’s cultural promotion cumulated and shined at their utmost. With this, Korea was able to be designated as the guest country at the Janadriya Festival hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and at Costa Rica’s International Arts Festival, both slated for 2012."

“In light of a number of important international events, such as the London Olympics, the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, and the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China, the organization will spare no effort in cultural engagement, integrating cultural traditions and modern technology,” the KOCIS director added.

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