UPDATE : 2018.9.25 TUE 10:46
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Real foreign envoys take part in Baekje Dynasty riteSeeing off Japanese Crown Prince Totochi, Dr. Wangin

At the Yeongam County of Jeollanamdo on April 5, 2014, ambassadors of the Slovak Republic, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Timor Leste, Turkey and Venezuela and the deputy head of mission of Vietnam, with their spouses, were the important foreign envoys accompanying ‘King Geunchogo of the Baekje Dynasty of Korea’ (13th King, AD 346-375) in a Royal Procession to the Sangdaepo Pavilion at the ‘Sangdaepo Port’ to see off the noted Baekje Scholar Doctor Wangjin and Japanese Crown Prince Totochi of Emperor Ojin (Eungsin in Korean phonetic) at the time of their departure by boat from the Port to Japan.

Leaders of the governments of the Yeongam County and the Jeollanam-do Province and ambassadors are readying to press buttons to open the Festival. They are fourth from right to the left: Chinese Consul General Wang Xianmin for Gwangju; Charge d’Affairs Yadira Hidalgo de Ortiz of Venezuela; Ambassadors Hemani Filomena Coelho Da Silva of Timor Leste, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine, Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanaka and Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic; a local government leader; Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon; two local government officials; Ambassadors Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay, Manuel Lopez Trigo of Costa Rica, Petar Andonov of Bulgaria and Hakan Okcal of Turkey; Deputy Head of Mission Counsellor Nam Hai Nguyen of Vietnam; and local government leaders.

The celebration event took place in memory of Korea’s noted scholar, Doctor Wangin, who was born in the Yeongam County

The ceremony was re-enacted at the 2014 Yeongam Doctor Wangin Culture Festival on 4-5 April this year as part of the main event. In the presence of the foreign mission chiefs as well as the Korean dignitaries, Acting Mayor Ko Young-yoon hosted the celebration on a special open-air stage with the participation of a thousand local citizens as well as the civic figures and local government leaders. (Due to the Election Management Law, the vice mayor acted for the mayor until the election would be over on June 4.)

Ambassadors and spouses pose in front of the Gate of the famed Dogap-sa Buddhist Temple in at the foot of the Wolchul-san Mountain (National Park). They are from left: Ambassadors Hemani Filomena Coelho Da Silva of Timor Leste and Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka; Mrs. Wijeratne; Mrs. Lopez Trigo (wife of the Costa Rican ambassador); Ambassadors Manuel Lopez Trigo of Costa Rica, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine and Petar Andonov of Bulgaria; Mrs. Bella (wife of the Slovak ambassador); Ambassador Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic; Mrs. Okcal (wife of the Turkish ambassador), Ambassador Hakan Okcal of Turkey; Mr. Yadira Hidalgo de Ortiz (spouse of the Venezuelan charge d’affaires of Venezuela); Charge d’Affaires Yadira Hidalgo de Ortiz of Venezuela; Ambassador Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay; Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post; and Deputy Head of Mission Counsellor and Mrs. Nam Hai Nguyen of Vietnam

The performance took place twice, namely the opening ceremony on the eve of April 4 and the re-enactment of the departure of Doctor Wangin and Crown Prince Totochi on the following day.

The ambassadors and their spouses met at the Gimpo Airport at its Protocol Office, exclusively reserved for VVIPs and rated higher than the VIP Lounge, and ‘accidentally’ met with Mayor Kang Un-tae of the Gwangju City who happened to fly the same place to Gwangju that afternoon. The Korea Post informed Mayor Kang that Ambassador Bella of the Slovak Republic and a number of other ambassadors were at the Protocol Office, whom Kang had met at the Gwangju International Kimchi Festival. Mayor Kang was more than glad to meet them again. Earlier on March 22, 2014 at the time of the tour of the Gwangyang Apricot Festival, the ambassadors met with Co-Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy similarly arranged by The Korea Post.

Ambassador Dusan Bella of Slovakia (left) and Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon

The plane landed at the Gwangju International Airport, from which the ambassadors and their spouses moved to the Wolchulsan Tourist Hotel where a welcome dinner was hosted by Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon on behalf of the mayor who was unable to attend due to the Election Management Law that required the candidate to resign from his post during the election period.

Ambassadors and spouses pose before the Main Temple of the Dogap-sa Buddhist Temple.

Mrs. Tissa Wijeratne (wife of the Sri Lankan ambassador) inserts her monetary donation in the Donation Box.

At the dinner, there was a welcome speech by Vice Mayor Ko, a return speech by Ambassador Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic on behalf of the visiting ambassadors, and presentation of a Plaque of Appreciation by Ambassador Bella to Vice Mayor Ko for his invitation of the ambassadors to the Wangin Culture Festival.

A close-up of the ambassadors and spouses in Baekje costumes.

Welcoming the guests, Vice Mayor Ko said: “In particular, Doctor Wangin who was born in Yeongam County 1600 years ago, visited Japan and caused the Asuka Culture of Japan spreading Lunyu (the Analects of Confucius) and Qianziwen (1,000 Basic Chinese Characters) to the Japanese people. Even today, Doctor Wangin enjoys a high esteem not only in Korea but also in Japan as a noted prophet.” (Excerpts from the speech toward the end of this Article.)

Right: Ambassadors and spouses together with the Yeongam citizens watch a Ganggangsullae Circle Dance performed by a group of the wives of the government officials and civic figures of the Yeongam County.
Left: Another part of the Ganggangsullae Circle Dance that derives from Admiral Yi Sun-shin’s defense tactics against the Japanese troops during the Hideyoshi Japanese Invasion of Korea.

In response to the welcome remarks, Ambassador Bella of the Slovak Republic made a congratulatory speech, where he noted that Wangin’s teachings helped to develop foundations of education in Japan, which greatly influenced all areas of Japanese political, economic and cultural life. (Excerpts from the speech at the end of this Article.)

Ambassadors and spouses in traditional Baekje costumes pose for the camera.

The visiting ambassadors and spouses then moved to the venue of the opening ceremony at the Bongseon-dae of the Culture Plaza where the ambassadors were invited to a traditional Korean tea with dried pieces of persimmons and pumpkins. There the ambassadors momentarily met with Mrs. Kim Il-tae, wife of the mayor, but there was no official contact due to the Election Management Law. The ambassadors also saw Mayor Kim but again there were no formalities due to restrictions imposed by the election law.

King Geunchogo of the Baekje Dynasty (in yellow and red robe) lead the Royal Procession followed by court ladies and ministers.
▲From right, foreground, Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon, Chairman Kim Han-nam of the Organizing Committee of the Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival and Mrs. Kim Myung-hee (protocol officer of the Yeongam County Government).

The ambassadors then were invited to a long table on the stage with the leaders of the government and civic figures of the country and province to press the buttons on the table to open the Festival. The button-pressing was synchronized with exploding of fireworks in the night sky that added to the excitement of about a thousand citizens packing the venue.

Left: Yeongam county leaders and ambassadors walk in a Royal procession.
Right: Ambassador and Mrs. Wijeratne of Sri Lanka are seen with other ambassadors and their spouses carrying a bamboo c
ane in the Royal Procession.

Then they moved to the Hyundai Hotel for the night. The rooms were large and well-furnished and had an excellent set of amenities. In addition, there was a large gift pack of fresh fruits on the table especially presented by the host for the ambassadors.

Ambassadors, senior diplomats and their spouses pose in front of the Gayageum Musical Instrument Museum in Yeongam County.
▲A traditional Korean Gayageum adorned with the horns of 40 heads of cattle and gold plates.

On the following morning, the ambassadors and spouses had an ‘American Breakfast’ which was excellent, and emulated in all respects any breakfast at the four- or fire-star hotel in Seoul.

They left the hotel and moved to the Gichan Land which was coined from Gi (energy, high spirit, etc.) and Chan meaning ‘filled’ or ‘full’ making up Gichan Land translating an ‘Energy-filled Land.’

Left: Ambassador and Mrs. Hakan Okcal of Turkey
Center: Ambassador Hemani Filomena Coelho Da Silva of Timor Leste
Right: Ambassador Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay (right) and Mrs. Lopez Trigo (wife of the ambassador of Costa Rica)

At the Gichan Land was located a Gayageum Museum (named after the 12-stringed traditional Korean zither), where the ambassadors and spouses heard explanations concerning the traditional Korean musical instrument coming in a large variety. Some of them even had a total of 26 strings and there even was one that was made by a Korean Gayageum handicraft master who used the horns of 40 heads of cattle and a good amount of pure gold.

Royal guard worriors protecting the party of Doctor Wangin and Japanese Crown Prince Totochi leaving for Japan.

Then the ambassadors moved to the famed Dogap-sa Buddhist Temple located at the foot of the Wolchul-san Mountain Park, which was designated as the Provincial Cultural Property No. 79 in 1984. At an elevation of 376 meters, the site offered spectacular views of the surrounding area, so impressive that it carried the nickname ‘Sogeumgang River’ meaning ‘Small Geumgang River’ of Jeollanamdo-Province.

Founded by famed Buddhist Monk Doseon during the later years of the Silla Kingdom, the temple housed many historic and cultural treasures, most notable of which was Haetalmun Gate (Gate of Nirvana [‘Emancipation from Worldly Worries and Concern’]) which was designated as National Treasure No. 50 and one of the few remaining original Korean structures.

A traditional Korean music band follow King Geunchogo of the Baejke Dynasty in a procession to the Sangdaepo Beach (now a partk of a lake park) followed by ambassadors and their spouses as well as the local civic leaders.

In addition, there were the Maaeyeorae Jwasang (Seated Buddha Image Carved on the Rock, National Treasure No.144) and Seokjoyeorae Jwasang (Seated Stone Buddha Image, National Treasure No.89)--and main more.

The ambassadors and spouses moved along a walkway lined with cherry trees leading to Dogap-sa Temple. The one-kilometer path offered a fabulous touch to the pristine surroundings.

Vice Mayor Ko, Chairman Kim and ambassadors and spouses releave gold carp into the water of the Sangdaepo Lake.

The visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats took pictures in front of the Daeung-jeon (Main Temple Building), the famous stone pagoda and various other sites on the temple perimeters.
Then they moved to the Wolchul-san Mountain Cabin Hotel and had a traditional Korean-cuisine luncheon which consisted of a wide variety of traditional Korean dishes, many of them prepared with fresh vegetables and clean mountain greens considered to be good for health.

Ambassadors and spouses are readying to release gold carps into the water.

After the luncheon, the visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats moved to the main performance venue of the Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival, where the ambassadors, senior diplomats and their spouses wore traditional Korean costumes of the Baekje Period sat in the front line exclusively reserved for the VVIP guests.

There were a number of interesting events and performances. Among them was the traditional Korean Circle Dance of Ganggangsullae (Important Intangible Cultural Asset Number 8) performed by dozens of women clad in Hanbok of pink and white, who were the wives of the senior government officials and civic leaders of the region. Soon, the ambassadors and their spouses were invited to join the dance clad in the traditional Baekje costumes. The diplomats, mingling with the performers of the Circle Dance and the citizens, were given enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience.

Ambassadors and spouses pose in front of the Wolchul-san Tourist Hotel in Yeongam County with Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon (9th from left), Chairman Kim Han-nam of the Organizing Committee of the Wangin Festival (2nd from right) and General Affairs Section Chief Moon Jeong-yeong of the Yeongam County (3rd from left).

Ganggangsullae is known to derive from Gang Gang Su Wol Lae (强羌水越來) meaning “Strong Japanese enemy is coming from yonder the sea!” The legend has it that when the Japanese troops invaded Jeolla Province during the Hideoyoshi Invasion of Korea (1592-1598), the Korean troops under the heroic Admiral Yi Sun-shin were badly outnumbered by the Japanese invaders and therefore the village women were encouraged to wear man’s clothes and circle around the waist of the Okmae-san Mountain during the Battle of Suyeong in Haenam County, Jeollanam-do Province so that it would make the enemy believe the Korean defenders were very large in number. This stuck fear into the Japanese soldiers, according to the legend, and made them run away instead of fighting them.

Vice Mayor Ko (right, foreground) shakes hands with Ambassador Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic (right) while Ambassador and Mrs. Mrs. Hakan Okcal of Turkey (center) look on with other ambassadors and their spouses.

After the performances, King Geunchogo of the Baekje Kingdom (impersonated by an actor) led a procession followed by Doctor Wangin, Japanese Crown Prince Totochi, Vice Mayor Ko, the diplomats, civic leaders and citizens of the region from the venue of performances to the Sangdaepo Pavilion built on one side of a lake which had formerly been a part of the Sangdaepo trading port of the Baekje Period.

‘King Geunchogo,’ Vice Mayor Ko, the diplomats and the local government representatives sat in the Sangdaepo Pavilion and saw off the party of Doctor Wangin, Crown Prince Totochi and the handicraftsmen leaving the ‘Sangdaepo Beach’ in a wooden sailboat for Japan.

Ambassadors and spouses attend a dinner hosted by Vice Mayor Ko.

After the ceremony, the vice mayor, the ambassadors and the local celebrities released gold carps into the water of the Sangdaepo Lake which used to be a part of the Sangdaepo Port.
On the way back to Seoul, the diplomats used KTX Speed Train at Naju Station. Vice Mayor Ko and the other leaders of the Yeongam County came to the Limousine bus and bade farewell shaking hands with each diplomat as they boarded the bus for the KTX station.

Ambassadors and spouses watch the departure of Wangin and his party for Japan.

▲Doctor Wangin and Crown Prince Totochi of Japanese Emperor Ojin prepare to board a wooden sail boat leaving for Japan with Lunyu Analects of the Confucius and other valuable study materials.

Excerpts from Vice Mayor Ko’s welcome speech:
It is a great honor and pleasure to welcome the Excellencies and Spouses. First of all, I would like express my heart-felt gratitude to the ambassadors and spouses of the Slovak Republic, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, Timor Leste, Uruguay, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela for the trouble they have taken to come all the way to the Yeongam County to grace our Wangin Culture Festival this year.

My gratitude also goes to Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post and his staff members for their service in arranging this meeting with such distinguished guests.
Now I would like express my warm welcome to you all on behalf of the 70,000 citizens of the Yeongam County.

A close up of the wooden sail boat leaving for Japan.

The Yeongam County is a region that is very rich in historical and cultural relics as well as tourist attractions, including the Wolchul-san National Park and the National Treasure Buddhist Temple, Dogap-sa.

In particular, Doctor Wangin who was born in Yeongam County 1600 years ago visited Japan and caused the Asuka Culture of Japan spreading Lunyu (the Analects of Confucius) and Qianziwen (1,000 Basic Chinese Characters) to the Japanese people. Even today, Doctor Wangin enjoys a high esteem not only in Korea but also in Japan as a noted prophet.

At a traditional Korean Tea House tent at the Main Festival Site where Korean tea and dried persimmon and pumpkin pieces were served. They are, from left, Ambassadors Hemani Filomena Coelho Da Silva of Timor Leste and Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic; Mrs. Bella; Mayor Ko Young-yoon in traditional Baekje governor’s gown; Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post; and Ambassador Petar Andonov of Bulgaria.

Thus, the Wangin Culture Festival of Yeongam County is the only Historical Figure Festival of Korea that takes place along the Cherry Tree-lined road of 100 ri (40 kilometers) in memory of the great will of Doctor Wangin.

Throughout your stay in the Yeongam County, I hope that you will all have a pleasant and meaningful time and introduce your fond memories of the Festival to all the people back in your country.

I wish that you will all keep your good memory with you and visit the Yeongnam County again.

Once again, I would like to express my profound gratitude to all the Excellencies and Spouses who have kindly taken the trouble of vising the Yeongam County to congratulate us on our Doctor Wangin Culture Festival this year.

I hope that you will all have a pleasant time throughout your stay in our Yeongam County. Thank you.

Ambassadors are readying to press buttons to open the Festival. They are from right Chinese Consul General Wang Xianmin for Gwangju; Charge d’Affairs Yadira Hidalgo de Ortiz of Venezuela; Ambassadors Hemani Filomena Coelho Da Silva of Timor Leste, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine, Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanaka and Dusan Bella of the Slovak Republic; Xxx; Vice Mayor Ko Young-yoon; and other ambassadors and officials of the local government.

Excerpts from return speech by Ambassador Bella of Slovakia:
Honorable Vice Mayor Ko Young-Yoon of Yeongam County, Distinguished Chairman Lee Kyung-sik, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen! First thing, allow me on behalf of participating diplomats to express our sincere thanks for your kind invitation to the 2014 Doctor Wangin Festival.

We know that this unique historic figure festival celebrates the achievements of Doctor Wangin, who travelled to Japan more than 1,600 years ago to spread knowledge, culture and art. His teachings helped to develop foundations of education in Japan, which greatly influenced all areas of Japanese political, economic and cultural life. Therefore we are looking forward to celebrating Doctor Wangin’s achievements together with people of Yeongam County in this beautiful landscape of Wolchul-san National Park and in this magic time of blooming cherry blossoms.

But in these days the Yeongam County is not only famous about the ancient history stretching back to the era of Baekje Kingdom but it is a land of opportunities, land of unspoiled natural scenery, land of high-quality agricultural and livestock products and, above all, it is a land vibrant with ‘Gi’, where everybody can regain and recharge this essential life energy.

No wonder that the Korean Grand Prix - a Formula One race, has been hosted every year since 2010 by the Korea International Circuit located just here in Yeongam.

Citizens enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom along the road leading to the Wangin Park in the Yeongam County of Jeollanam-do Province.

But we know that Yeongam is famous also for its delicious figs, sweet Yeongam pears, excellent Daebong persimmons, quality dalmaji rice as well as it is known for its Yeongam porcelain.

Having said that allow me to wish Vice Mayor Ko Young-Yoon and people of Yeongam many good ideas and new investment opportunities which will bring to your county more economic development, prosperity and happiness. Thank you.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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