Ambassador Hany Selim Labib of Egypt and other ambassadors and senior diplomats of a total of 11 different countries visited the Yeongam County of Jeollanam-do Province with their spouses on April 6-7, 2017, and attended the 2017 Wangin Culture Festival subtitled, “Dr. Wangin Goes to Japan.” (See list of visiting diplomats at the end of this report.)
Highlight of the Festival was a procession of high-ranking members of the visiting mission of the Baekje Kingdom to Japan led by Dr. Wangin who transferred to Japan the brilliant culture of the Baekje Dynasty of Korea. After arrival at Yeongam, the visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats with their spouses were invited to a luncheon hosted by Mayor Governor Chon Dong-pyung of Yeongam Province.
Welcoming the ambassadors and other senior diplomats, Vice Mayor Hwang In-seop of the City, on behalf of the mayor, said, “Together with the 60,000 citizens of the Yeongam County, I extend my warmest welcome to His Excellency Ambassador Hani Selim Labib of Egypt all other distinguished guests from Korea and abroad, who have kindly taken their precious time out of their busy schedule to grace us with their presence here today.” (See excerpts from the welcome speech toward the end of this article.) In response, Ambassador Labib of Egypt, dean of the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps that day, said, “It is meaningful to celebrate the achievements of the ancestors who contributed a lot to enriching our present life.” (See excerpts from the speech at the end of this article.)
Dr. Wangin was born in the Yeongam County, and was rated as a very brilliant student who won the title of Ogyeong Baksa at the age of 18. The Yeongam County, which the local residents call ‘A Sacred Land,’ is surrounded by the beautiful Wolchul-san National Park and the Yeongsan River, the main water supply source of the Jeolla Provinces. As it is a historical site which has served as a key trading center between Korea, China and Japan from ancient times to Goryeo Dynasty, the county has given birth to many distinguished persons such as Dr. Wangin and the famous Buddhist monk, Doseonguksa.
In particular, 1,600 years ago during the Baekje Period, Dr. Wangin was invited by Emperor Ojin of Japan. He took the Cheonjamun, the Analects of Confucius, potters, blacksmiths and weavers to Japan. Wangin was a great pathfinder who, as the originator of Japanese scholarship, helped the Asuka Culture of Japan flourish.
To illuminate the accomplishments of Dr. Wangin who realized the ideal of an open world and pay tribute to his sublime aspiration, the descendants of Dr. Wangin gather together at the historic site of Dr. Wangin at Mt. Wolchul in April when the best 40 kilometers of route are covered by cherry blossoms in full bloom. Starting with the Dr. Wangin Grand Chunghyang Festival, a variety of programs rich in local color are offered for local and foreign tourists while the cherry blossoms float in the spring breezes.
The main features are the opening parade to 'welcome Wangin,' the opening ceremony of the 'Light of Wangin, Road of Culture,' the Korea-Japan Win-Win project 'Wangin Cheonjamun Ddeok (rice cake),' the unveiling of the symbolic sculpture 'Cheonin Cheonjamun,' the Gurim village traditional culture experience zone, the Yeongam ceramic culture exhibition, and the 'Gichandeul' shopping mall where excellent agricultural and special products of Yeongam are sold. The Festival also includes Dr. Wangin's visit-to-Japan experience, 'Sangdaepo raft riding,' Dopoje tug-of-war, the Jeongdongjeongho Festival, traditional folk plays including Jangbujil songs, Mt. Yeoseok Ssangpae Nongak, and the Baekje costume parade.
Excerpts from the welcome speech by Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung (read by Vice Mayor Huang In-seop):
I extend my warmest welcome to all the Excellencies and Madam who have taken the trouble of coming a long way to grace our Festival with your kind attendance. Together with the 60,000 citizens of the Yeongam County, I extend my warmest welcome to His Excellency Governor Lee Nak-yeon of the Jeolla Province, His Excellency Ambassador Hani Selim Labib of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Seoul and all the distinguished guests from Korea and abroad, who have kindly taken their precious time of their schedule to grace us with their presence here today.
Through your kind attendance, I feel your brotherly love and affection for us. The Yeongam County of the Jeollanam-do Province is home of many historical and cultural legacies of distinction such as the National Park of Mt. Wolchul and the National Treasure Buddhist Temple of Dogap-sa. In particular, Yeongam is the home county of the historically famous Wangin Baksa (Dr. Wangin or Wani as is known in Japan), who spread Linyu (the Analects of the Chinese) and Cheonjamun (Thousand Chinese Character Text) to Japan 1600 years ago, which gave rise to the brilliant Asuka Culture of Japan. At present, the Yeongam County houses the Daebul National Industrial Complex and the Hyundai and Samho heavy industrial bases.
Together with them all the citizens of the Yeongam County are one in the construction of an affluent, welfare county through development of agriculture. Today, the Yeongam County is simultaneously opening the Wangin Culture Festival and the Republic of Korea Hanok Construction Expo of the Traditional Korean Housing Architecture. Through your attendance, I hope that the distinguished guests will all take home a wonderful memory.
Once again, I would like express my heart-felt gratitude and welcome to all the distinguished guests here today for their kind visit to the Yeongam County and I would like to express my sincere hopes that you will all enjoy the fragrance and sight of the beautiful cherry blossoms and all take home a wonderful memory. And also, I would like solicit that wherever you may be our distinguished guests will always remember our Yeongam County. I wish endless blessings of God to the all the countries and families of the distinguished guests here today who grace our county with your kind presence. Thank you very much.
Excerpts from the farewell speech by Mayor Jeon:
Good afternoon, I am Dongpyeong Jeon, the Mayor of the Yeongam County. I hope Your Excellencies, Madams and other Distinguished Diplomats have had a memorable time in Yeongam. I regret to inform you that our time for farewell has come all too soon. Although it has been a very short time, I sincerely wish that you have all enjoyed your stay in our county. I apologize for not having been able to stay all the time with Your Excellencies due to my busy schedule. I appreciate how your every step along the way has made the Yeongam Wangin culture festival very special. Thank you again to all the ambassadors and families for this visit to Yeongam. I hope our cherished relationship will continue to prosper in the future. I promise to cooperate through much more frequent exchange, following the spirit of communication and co-prosperity of Dr. Wangin. Lastly, I hope your short visit remains as a heartwarming memory, and I would like to ask you to publicize Yeongam as widely as you can, the hometown of Dr. Wangin. The county wishes to have more meaningful encounters with all of you in the future. We pray for your health, happiness and prosperity in each of your home country.
Excerpts from the farewell speech by Ambassador Labib of Egypt:
Honorable Mayor Dongpyeong Jeon of the Yeongam county, distinguished officials from the county, excellencies and dear colleagues, On behalf of my colleagues from the Seoul diplomatic Corps, it’s my pleasure to express deep appreciation for the kindness and hospitality extended to us during our stay with you. Although it was a very short time, we enjoyed every minute of it and learnt many things, such as celebration of our ancestors who contributed a lot to enrich our present life and keeping their thoughts alive through our practice.
Employing culture as a means to bridge gaps between nations and people towards a peaceful world is very important, which we will never stop for the promotion of cultural understanding between Korea and our countries. Thank you again and we all wish prosperity and progress to your county, your province and your kind people, and success to all its leaders.
List of participants in the Festival from the SDC:
Ambassadors Hany Selim Labib of Egypt (with Madam Nehal Hanna), Hassan Taherian of Iran (with Madam Mah Manesh Taherian and family),
(with Madam Rosana Serra) and Adel Mohammad Adaileh of Jordan (with Madam Joud Adaileh and family); Deputy Heads of Mission Nicolas Descoeudres of Switzerland (with Mrs. Sophie Koehler) and Counsellor Atai Namatbaev of Kyrgyzstan with Mrs. Saliia Namatbaeva; Defense Attache Colonel Myint Thein of Myanmar with Mrs. Thein.
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