By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher-Chairman, The Korea Post media
Ambassador and Mrs. Zofia Majka of Poland in Seoul hosted a year-end party at the Plaza Hotel in front of the Seoul City Hall last night. It was one of the coziest parties in recent months, according to the guests who obviously had their fill of the wonderful spread of the repast as well as the company.
The venue, the Ruby Hall on the 22nd floor of the hotel, overlooked the picturesque night view of the City Hall plaza and the surrounding area, which made some journalist guests, especially the photographers, exclaim, “Why! This is the place!” They were bemoaning the loss of their opportunity to shoot fantastic scenes of 2.5 million people gathering for improved government governance on some previous nights. Sans the millions of demonstrating crowds, the night view of the area was just peaceful and wonderful, and offered a picturesque night view of the busy street in the heart of the Seoul City.
In fact, the venue was nothing compared with the wonderful atmosphere of the reception and the guest attendance which was among the best throughout the year in terms of their statue.
Offhand, there were Chairman Minn Woong-kih of the Nami Island-Jeju Island, Chairman Young-tae Kim of the Daesung Business Group, President John Schuldt of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, President Myoung-Kyun Kim of POSCO Terminal, Chairman David Kim of KH Investment Inc., Vice President Mrs. Sun-Hyang Kim of Korean Red Cross (spouse of the Kyungnam University president), Mrs. Sung Ki-hak (wife of the chairman of the Youngone Group), Executive Managing Director Rakesh Mistry of Erare Automovie Systems Co., and this writer (publisher-chairman of The Korea Post media).
There also were many envoys and other senior diplomats, who included Ambassadors Antonio Nobre of Portugal, Mihai Ciompec of Romania, Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, YIP Wei Kiat of Singapore and Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia.
In fact, Ambassador and Mrs. Majka, in the opinion of many Korean civic figures, stand out in the fact that they try to ‘absorb’ the Korean culture as their own, and make Korean friends from the bottom of their heart.
Mrs. Majka, who also has many close Korean lady friends, is especially known for her rare skill in making the tastiest genuine Korean kimchi, the staple food of Korea besides rice.
Many Koreans regard the Polish ambassador couple as a great human asset of Poland, at least as far as Korea and her people are concerned. Therefore, the Majkas have many bosom friends in Korea.
In fact, it was a very, very sad party for many guests, Koreans and those of other countries. It was because it was literally a farewell party as the Majkas announced that evening that they were leaving Korea in April next year.
It was very, very sad news because the Majkas were not just an ambassador couple but genuine bossom friends who firmly established an inerasable place in the hearts of many Koreans.
Speaking to the guests that night, Ambassador Majka said: “It was a really intensive period of time in our life where many important events took place and significant number of various tasks have been carried out which allow me to say, perhaps without a false modesty, that I am proud and happy that relations between Poland and Korea have risen during my tenure to a higher level of cooperation and visibility. And there are, in that, both Zofia’s and my small footprints.”
Ambassador Majka, in the opinion of this writer and many other Koreans, for that matter, was overly modest.
In the heart of many Koreans who know them, “The Majkas planted an inerasable image of Poland and Polish people in our hearts.”
Many Koreans at the party confided in one another, “Why the Majkas should stay in Korea for good because it would be best for Korea as well as for Poland!” Here are excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Majka:
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Majka:
Amour Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues Dear Friends.
Good evening everyone, and welcome
It is lovely to see you all looking so festive and in a good mood. I don’t want to ruin this happy atmosphere and promise not to speak too long.
But, let me start with a personal reflection.
I have come to Korea accompanied by my wife Zofia precisely on April 1st 2011. It would have sounded a little bit like an April Fools' Day joke if someone had told me that I would stay here as the Polish Ambassador for another 6 years.
But don’t worry. Today is not our farewell Party. Not yet! To stick to a certain tradition, my ambassadorial mission in Korea will finish also on April 1st but next year, exactly after 6 years of my and Zofia’s diplomatic service in Korea.
Koreans sometimes compare time to an arrow shot with a bow. It is difficult to say if those 6 years really went that fast (although for me and Zofia it does seem so), but one thing is sure: it was a really intensive period of time in our life. Many important events took place and significant number of various tasks have been carried out which allow me to say, perhaps without a false modesty, that I am proud and happy that relations between Poland and Korea have risen during my tenure to a higher level of cooperation and visibility. And there are, in that, both Zofia’s and my small footprints.
On a brief retrospective note, let me mention that in 2016 alone we have hosted two high level visits from Poland. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Mr. Piotr Gliński came to Korea in June to, among others, attend the ASEM Ministers of Culture Meeting in Gwangju.
In October, Seoul was visited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Witold Waszczykowski accompanied by quite substantial delegation consisting of three deputy ministers from different ministries, members of parliament, representatives of business and media. The “Action Plan for the implementation of the strategic partnership between our countries for the years 2017-2020”, already second such a document, has been signed during that visit.
The latter visit coincided with the opening of direct flight connection between Warsaw and Seoul operated by LOT Polish Airlines. I truly believe that possibility of flying between Warsaw and Seoul without any transfer will also have a positive impact on further development of Polish-Korean bilateral relations.
Culture and promotion of cultural cooperation in its broad sense was perhaps the area of the highest level of activity. I will not name all events organized or co-organized by the Embassy during the whole year, the list is far too long and they are much more interesting if encountered directly, personally.
I am also glad to say that in 2016 Polish city of Łódź, a candidate to host EXPO 2022, signed a MoU on cooperation with Korean city of Daegu. Regional cooperation is an important dimension of Polish-Korean Strategic Partnership.
At this point, as a round-up of my retrospective, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my wife Zofia and everyone from my embassy staff for their contribution, enthusiasm in work and support.
I am happy to work with such a nice and responsible people as you are.
December, with Christmas and end of year upcoming, has a particular meaning in Poland’s tradition. It is time of happiness, joy on one hand, and time for reflection, summary and plans for the future on the other. On this occasion, I’d like to wish all of you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let all your dreams come true and at the same time good health and fortune in both professional and personal life never leave you. I truly hope that 2017 will bring further strengthening of Poland’s cooperation and friendship relations with Korea, our host – and the countries you’re representing.
Let me conclude my speech on a bit more personal and philosophical note.
As somebody said “Life is made up of small comings and goings. And for everything we take with us, there is something that we leave behind”.
One of my favourite Korean songs is “Longing for Diamond Mountain” (그리운 금강산 [Geuriun Geumgang-san]). It is a beautiful melody combined with deep and full of significance lyrics. The song reflects Koreans’ spirit and their nostalgia for unified Korea, which is metaphorically represented by beautiful Mount Geumgang – located in what is now North Korea.
With all those years spent in Korea, even after the return to Poland, part of my and Zofia’s heart will for sure stay here. And as Koreans are awaiting the possibility to see again the Diamond Mountain we will definitely miss Korea, perhaps humming from time to time: Geuriun Geumgang-san”.
Now, as my speech is over, thank you for your patience and let’s raise the glasses in a toast. To us, to our families and a truly Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Na zdrowie!