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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.