The first thing that impresses the visitors to the residence of Ambassador and Mrs. Ramzi Teymurov of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Seongbuk-dong, Seoul, is the persimmon tree at the eastern corner of her garden. In the mid-December, the persimmon tree was still heavily laden with fully ripen persimmons hanging heavily almost on all branches of the tree.
“Madam, why have they not been picked?” this writer asked Mrs. Konul Teymurova, spouse of Ambassador Teymurov, who had recently been chosen as the doyenne of the Ambassador Spouses’ Association in Seoul (ASAS).
Importance of the role of ASAS cannot be adequate introduced merely through words. In some respects, activities of ASAS emulate those of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps (SDA), the organization of their spouses—in the fact that their activities come in direct contact with the Korean people, the First Lady of the Republic of Korea on down to the plain members of the Korean Red Cross. There is little worry about red tapes.
Generous farmers in Korea used to leave some persimmons on the tree after harvesting much of them from their Buddhist belief that they would go to Heaven if they would leave some on the tree for Ggachi (magpies), hence the name Ggachi-bap, food for the magpies.
The Teymurovs obviously had not even touched the persimmons on the tree, let alone ‘harvesting’ them. She said they were just for viewing—but apparently more for the birds. On that day at the residence of Mrs. Teymurova, having a party over the juicy persimmons were not exactly magpies but a group of sparrows.
The way Mrs. Teymurova viewed the persimmon tree at her garden and the birds, it reminded one of the noted lady scholar and model mother, Madam Shin Saimdang (1504-1551) of the Joseon Dynasty, who is today on the 50,000-won Korean bank note. She is a noted artist, writer, calligraphist, and a poet. She is also the mother of the famous Confucian Scholar Yi I of the Joseon Dynasty (who is also on the Korean bank note of 1,000-won denomination).
Since the official visits of President Roh Moo-hyun to Azerbaijan in May 2006 and President Ilham Aliyev to Korea in April 2007, the relations between the two countries have developed in many fields such as construction, transport, information technologies, energy and natural resources.
There are many similarities between Korea and Azerbaijan in their history, culture, traditions and especially language. The Korean and Azerbaijan languages are members of the Altaic language family. According to many Koreans who visited Azerbaijan, there is unlimited potential for substantially increased mutual cooperation and relations between the two countries, not only in the economic, trade and energy sector, but also in the spheres of culture, education, art and sports.
Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Mrs. Teymurova, newly accredited chairperson of ASAS:
Question: What is the schedule of ASAS for the New Year?
Answer: Before answering your question I would like to briefly inform The Korea Post audience about ASAS. The organization is an officially registered non-profit organization in Seoul. All the foreign ambassadors’ spouses accredited to Korea with their official residency in Seoul are eligible to become ASAS members.
ASAS actively cooperates with the government and non-government organizations of Korea such as Red Cross Korea, Seoul International Women’s Association, Korea Culture Association. In previous years, we jointly hosted many cultural and charity activities.
Besides ASAS’ regular monthly meetings, we are planning to have our February meeting in an extraordinary way--in Pyongchang at the House of Switzerland related to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In early March of 2018, we are planning to hold ASAS Bazaar and around May we will host ASAS Charity Ball which was huge success last year with the support of Lotte Hotels and Resorts and all other sponsors and distinguished guests.
Besides these we will organize some outings as usual depending on our plans and time.
Q: What are the new work plans you may have in addition to what all your predecessors have done?
A: I am sure that my predecessors have done their best and contributed to ASAS, and this is one of the reasons why ASAS is further developing. ASAS success story is purely related with the productive work of the great team that all the ASAS members actively involved with.
Currently ASAS is running special programs for its members only such as ECC English Conversation Club, FCC French Conversation Club and SCC Spanish Conversation Club which is going to be active soon. The conversation club idea was offered us by Madame Eman Dmour, spouse of the Jordanian ambassador and as we can observe is highly appreciated by the members who join them.
ASAS Projects’ Coordinator Madame Ayako Ngamine, spouse of the Japanese ambassador, is arranging International Day for KDS (Korea Down Syndrome Society) with the participation of ASAS members.
At least once in a month ASAS members volunteering some activities with down syndrome people at KDS such as teaching them how to do origami (jongi jeopgi in Korean), cooking traditional pastry together or just teaching them music or dance of their respective countries.
Madame Flavia Kloos, spouse of the Romanian ambassador, recently started a special program for ASAS members called “E-motion Session with Flavia Kloos” where participants experience the ways of finding balance of life and mind with several coaching sessions.
And naturally you can’t imagine women without doing shopping.
First of all we are human beings with needs and secondly we are wives and mothers. In this meaning, we have easy shopping group where people try to help each other with sharing the places where we can easily find needed items without too much hassle.
I believe that all of these activities and the ones we will organize in the future, will help us build stronger team spirit, bring people closer to each other regardless of difference in their religion and race which always existed, and give everyone a chance to actively participate and benefit each other and experience magnificent Korea.
Q: What is your impression of the First Lady of Korea and the role played by her in what we call Naejo, the domestic support for the husband?
A: We have not had a chance to meet with First Lady Kim Jung-Sook in person yet, but as far as I follow the Korean media outlets I can tell that Korean people praise her personality and character to a great extent.
In accordance with my observation of Madam Kim and President Moon Jae-in, they are both trying to do their best to interact with the ordinary citizens of Korea with their smiling faces that from distance gives very positive impression about the First Couple of Korea.
I think the interaction between the leadership of a country and citizens is essential for better governance. I know it from my own country’s experience where both the President and the First Lady actively interact with ordinary citizens.
Q: Please introduce the First Lady of Azerbaijan, and also the First Family
A: I have to mention that Azerbaijan is the first country in the Muslim East to give women right to vote, even before some Western democracies.
With this background, the Azerbaijani women have always been active in social and political life of the country. The First Lady of Azerbaijan, Madam Mehriban Aliyeva, in this sense, is a great role model for modern Azerbaijani women.
In her official capacity as the First Vice President of Azerbaijan and as president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, she is a prominent political and social figure with her activities inside and beyond Azerbaijan aimed at the promotion of Azerbaijan culture and values.
Under the leadership of Madam Mehriban Aliyeva, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been actively contributing to the social and economic development of the country, by implementing various projects in spheres such as education, public health, culture, sports, science and technology, environment, and social and other areas.
With her personal initiative, several cultural heritage and religious sites of the world, including the Pio-Clementino Museum, the catacombs of Saints Marcelline and Peter of Vatican, have been restored.
Besides her political and social activities in Azerbaijan, she is very much welcomed by international organizations for her contributions to culture and sports, for which she was designated Goodwill Ambassador of the UNESCO and the ISESCO.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail as our readers may be interested in learning more about the new doyenne of the ASAS.
A: I was born in Barda which is one of the historical cities of Azerbaijan with its over 2000-year history. My childhood and early years of education run into Soviet time. My middle school education was accompanied with many challenges and difficulties due to neighboring Armenian’s occupation of territories of Azerbaijan that caused hundreds of thousands of people to become refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Barda is located very near to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, thus at the beginning of the conflict our hometown received thousands of refugees and IDPs. One should imagine that during one of the school days I and my fellow schoolmates woke up early in the morning to go to school, and when we arrived school we found out that our school building had been turned into a refugee camp, and we were told that due to emergency situation we should continue our classes inside cargo containers which was the only fastest option to turn something into classrooms. It was the dramatic moments of my childhood that I always hope that no other child either in Azerbaijan or in any other country would face.
I continued my education at the University of Foreign Languages where I met my husband, Mr. Ramzi Teymurov, as a fellow student. We got married practically right after graduation from the university.
During my stay in Azerbaijan, I worked at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy which is called ADA University today. It was a great experience to be part of a big family where Azerbaijan’s young generation is benefiting with a high level of education.
Besides these, I am a graduate of Sungkyunkwan University, SKKU SKKGSB, where I had a great opportunity to build friendship with fellow students from Korea and abroad, and developed a lifetime attachment to Korea.
We have two sons in their 10th and 15th and live in beautiful Seoul, enjoying the rich culture of Korea for almost five years now.
Q: This may sound a personal question, but our readers are very inquisitive. How did you meet Ambassador Teymurov?
A: After I graduated from high school, I got my major in foreign language at the university where Ambassador Teymurov studied during the same period. I believe he fell in love with me first. He was my senior whose character was just humble and natural and he came to me first when I was in the first grade.
If you ask me whether he was attractive or handsome, at that time I didn’t find him that cool or handsome, but in fact at the very first time we weren’t conscious of each other in that way. We just considered ourselves colleagues.
He only used to say that we had some potential in relationship for some day, so we just spent time studying and even though he was in a different field of the department. Anyway, we studied at the same campus and took part in some class of language for English and French. My major was English.
It took four years for us to get married.
Q: May I ask you how your marks were as a student and how you became the chairperson of ASAS?
A: I have always been a good student since the days of middle school. I can say I was always trying to do my best although I didn’t focus too much on my grade but concentrating on to expanding my academic knowledge. And I think the most important thing is that I was very much interested in learning and that I wanted be a good student. Most of all, we have wonderful memories of last days in the university to share together as old friends.
And we moved to Vienna in Austria, and then now we are in Korea. And I feel I am very lucky to experience European life and the life here in Korea. I got an MBA from Sungkyunkwan University. Actually all my courses at the SKK university were very intensive, but they offered me very nice experience at the same time.
I am very much interested in organizing various events such as charity events and as a result of election I became the chairperson of our ASAS by the favor of my friends and members who gave me trust and support.
Q: What is the population of Azerbaijan?
A: Today we have over nine million people living in my country and there are more than fifty million living in various other countries of the world. Most of our ethnics live in the neighboring countries and they consider themselves as Azerbaijani people but they are citizens of their living countries.