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Envoys attend Gwangju Recollection Festival, see Asian Cultural ComplexFour million visitors recorded last year

Twenty-five ambassadors, senior diplomats and spouses attended the Gwangju Chungjang-no ‘70s-‘80s Recollection Festival and inspected the ‘mammoth’ Gwangju Asian Culture Complex (ACC) in the Geumnam-no Street of the Gwangju Metropolitan City on Oct. 8, 2014. Geumnam-no Street is the symbol of the Gwangju Democratization Movement of May 18, 1980.

▲Ambassadors and mayors and other leaders of the Gwangju Metropolitan City and Dong-gu District as well as the National Assemblymen from the locality attend the opening ceremony clad in nostalgic high school uniforms and other people including show-biz actors and actresses.

They visited the Theme Street of the Nostalgic 1970s and 1980s, toured the super large-scale Asian Culture Complex inspecting various facilities of the Complex, and attended the opening ceremony of the Festival with Mayor Yoon Jang-Hyun of the Gwangju City, members of the National Assembly from the city and province and various other civic figures as well as Mayor Roh Hee-yong of the Dong-gu District (Town) of Gwangju.

The opening ceremony was emceed by popular Korean musical actress Jeon Soo-kyung (newly married wife of General Manager Eric Swanson of Millennium Seoul Hilton) and a popular MBC TV announcer.

At the welcome ceremony at the District Hall, Mayor Roh Hee-Yong said, “The Korean people have a saying, ‘When you are young you feed on dreams for the future and then when you become old you feed on recollections, namely the good old days,’ and this is very reflected in our Recollection Festival.” He said that the Chungjang Recollection Festival communicates with the past through our memories and looks forward to a bright future. Then he disclosed that a total of four million persons visited the Festival last year. (See excerpts from his speech toward the end of this Article.)

▲Mayor Roh Hee-yong of the Dong-gu District (Town) of Gwangju (left) receives a Plaque of Appreciation by Ambassador Dr. Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay.

In response to Mayor Roh’s welcome speech, Ambassador Dr. Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay, dean of the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps, disclosed that she had a similar festival in her country of Uruguay. She said: “To be sincere for me, this is not new. In Uruguay, my country, since 1978, the Nostalgic Night, or Noche de la Nostalgia in Spanish, is celebrated on every August 24th, on the eve of our National Independence Day. That night you can find Noche de la Nostalgia parties at restaurants, hotels, casinos, nightclubs and ballrooms all over the country and the music played is always oldies or nostalgic music (Beatles, Bee Gees, Creedence, Queen, Abba or Village People--to name a few).” (See excerpts from the speech of the ambassador at the end of this Article.)

The ambassadors and other senior diplomats were invited to take a walk through an alley of the Geumnam-no Street where they saw many things of the past re-enacted, including Yeot Chigi (taffy-breaking game), and were invited to join the game. Each ambassador and spouse was given a palm-length piece of taffy stick and to the count-down of five, four, three, two, one and Break! Whoever had the largest number of holes or the largest size of hole on the broken end of the taffy stick was the winner. It was just for fun and no winner was announced.

▲Ambassadors, other senior diplomats and their spouses sample the nostalgic Korean rice taffy of the 1970s and 1980s.

And then the ambassadors and other senior diplomats were invited to visit the ‘Old Back Alleys of the Downtown Geumnam-no’ which were created on a reduced scale and the ‘alleys’ were much narrower than those that had actually exited in the past.

There were many nostalgic features of the past, which included a comic bookstore, a police box, an inn, a taffy store, a street corner (where the ‘long-haired high-school and university students were caught by the police and had a compulsory ‘free’ crude haircut) and a small street theater where, at the time, there was an re-enactment of Korea’s most popular KBSTV drama, Yeoro (The Journey). Yeoro was presented in the form of a silent film and the actor and actress just silently gave their performance as a silent-film narrator did the talking. (See details of the story of Yeoro toward the end of this Article.)

▲A Korean TV reporter interviews Ambassador Krzysztof Majka of Poland clad in the nostalgic high-school uniform of the 1970s and 1980s--bringing Poland and Korea closer heart to heart. Mayor Roh is seen at far right wearing a high-school training uniform. At right is Vietnamese Investment Counsellor Nguyen Hien with a Gwangju girl playfully wearing a cooking bowl hat.

The ambassadors and other senior diplomats then visited the much-talked about Gwangju Asian Culture Complex (ACC) being built on the square of the then Provincial Capital Building of Jeollanam-do. At the time Gwangju was not an autonomous metropolitan city but the capital city of the Jeollanam-do Province.

Construction of the Gwangju ACC was in the last stage and the guiding official said that the entire Complex will be dedicated in the New Year.
The Gwangju ACC was built on a land lot of about 160,000 square meters, which is larger than the land lot of the Seoul Art Center in Seocho-dong, Seoul, which is 120,000 square meters.

▲Korea’s top TV drama, Young-gu the Fool, which attracted the largest audience in the 1970s and 80s, is re-enacted at the Festival before the diplomats.

All the cultural performance and exhibitions facilities were built under the ground so that the surface can be used as an open forested park.
The total budget earmarked the project is 5 trillion 300 billion won (approx. US$5.3 billion), consisting of 2.8 trillion won from the central government, 800 billion won from the local budget and the balance from the private sector.

As its construction began ten years ago, it was 2004 which was in the second year of the government of the progressive-minded President Roh Moo-hyun who was more liberal than his predecessor, President Kim Dae-jung, and who was very mindful of bloody suppression of demonstrating students and citizens carried out by the Martial Law Command troops of President Chun Doo-hwan in 1980.

▲Ambassadors and senior diplomats inspect facilities of the Asian Culture Complex in Gwangju

The power seat of President Kim Dae-jung was in Gwangju and other regions of the Jeolla Provinces and it is obvious that construction of the ACC did not take place until the succeeding government of President Roh Moo-hyun obviously from fear that people might think President Kim had favoritism for his own power-seat region of Gwangju and Jeolla Provinces.

The Gwangju ACC is exorbitantly large and obviously had a questionable degree of justification considering the relatively small population of the City (less than 1.5 million) and the surrounding areas.

It appears that great efforts should be made to induce the users of the Complex for adequate occupancy and utilization in order to avoid possible adverse responses from the general public for inappropriate use and wasting of taxpayers’ money.

▲An ad balloon advertising the Recollection Festival

Excerpts from welcome speech of Mayor Roh:
Welcome Excellencies and Madams to our Town. I am Mayor Noh Hee-yong of Dong-gu Town (District) of Gwangju Metropolitan City.
The summer has gone, and the skies are full of signs of autumn. I extend my warmest welcome to the Excellencies and Madams to the 11th 70-80s Chungjang Recollection Festival. Thank you very much Ambassador Dr. Alba Rosa Florio Legnani of Uruguay and all the other Ambassadors and their spouses.

The 70-80s Chungjang Recollection Festival is one of the Excellent Festivals designated as such by the Central Government of the Republic of Korea, which is a Street Culture and Art Festival that takes place in the heart of the city in contrast with those normally held in the countryside.
The broad Geumnam-no Street is filled on that day not with cars or other motor vehicles but with only citizens, their breathing sound and outcries of joy.

▲National Flag-lowering ceremony is re-enacted which took place in Korea in the 1970s and 80s to maintain the loyalty of the citizens to the nation and state. This is no longer practiced today.

The Chungjang Festival shows the bright future of the Dong-gu District of the Gwangju Metropolitan City which is famous for culture and art. Next year, the National Asian Culture Complex (ACC) will be dedicated in Dong-gu, which will further upgrade the Dong-gu District together with the Chungjang Festival.

The Korean people have a saying, “When you are young you feed on dreams for the future and then when you become old you live on recollections.” The Chungjang Festival communicates with the past through your memories and looks forward to a bright future.

It is my ardent wish that all the Excellencies and Madams here will make many fond memories at the Chungjang Festival in Dong-gu and take them home together with a bright future.

▲Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post (with back to the camera) clad in high-school uniform of the 1970s and 1980s explaining to Mrs. Zofia Majka (wife of the Polish ambassador) and other diplomats how to wear the clothes of the period.

Once again, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Excellencies and Madams for their kind attendance at the Chungjang Festival.
I wish you all a very pleasant time.

Congratulatory speech by Ambassador Dr. Legnani of Uruguay:
On behalf of the diplomats participating this afternoon I would like to express our gratitude for your invitation to participate in this nice event.
This is my second visit to Gwangju in five days, and I think there is no better definition for this place than the one used by Mayor Park Won-soon of the Seoul Metropolitan City last Saturday, that is, “Gwangju is a City of Taste, Art and Democracy.”

Today we will specially attend the opening Ceremony of a very interesting and original event of the 70-80 Chungjang Recollection Festival in its 11th edition, one of the most representative festivals of the city, at the Dong-gu. The festival theme is 1970s and 80s and creating a nostalgic atmosphere with performances, exhibitions and different programs that will lead middle aged people to recollect their past life while helping young people see life of their past generation.

To be sincere, for me this is not new. In Uruguay, my country, since 1978, the Nostalgic Night, or Noche de la Nostalgia in Spanish, is celebrated every August 24th at the eve of our National Independence Day. That night you can find Noche de la Nostalgia parties at restaurants, hotels, casinos, nightclubs, ballrooms all over the country and the music played is always oldies or nostalgic music (Beatles, Bee Gees, Creedence, Queen, Abba or Village People to name a few).

▲The policeman and policewoman of the 1970-80s dancing with young boys and girls.

This night is a great success and has become a tradition, a night when people of all ages go out dancing, dresses fancy, some dress in 60s, 70s or 80s fashion. Some years ago the Parliament, with the idea of the Ministry of Tourism, has officially named the August 24th as the Noche de la Nostalgia Day.
As you see the ideas are similar and the goals are similar too.
Receive our best wishes of success for this Festival which will grow the curiosity on the past while contributing to globalizing this beautiful city.

Thank you.

Popular past drama, Yeoro featuring Young-gu and Buni:
The reduced re-enactment of the popular Korean drama, Yeoro (Journey), in the narrow back alley of Gwangju of the 1970s and 80s, in fact, is a very, very popular drama of KBS TV that jerked tears from a lot of people.
It was about Yeong-gu the Fool who was mentally retarded but honest and loving for his wife.

Yeoro was aired in 1972 (April to December), was the most popular drama among all such works from 1960s to 1980s, and earned a nickname, ‘Drama of the People.’

Television was not in sufficient supply at the time and so the neighbors all came to the house that had a TV--to watch Yeoro.

Very good-looking actress, Ms. Tae Hyun-sil, played the title role of Buni, wife of Yeong-gu the Fool (played by Chang Uk-jae).

Buni was born to a very poor family and was wedded to Yeong-gu for money so that his parents could beget a grandson. Yeong-gu was a not only mentally but physically retarded man. However, Buni served her husband faithfully and with love in spite of his mental and physical conditions. Yeong-gu, too, got to like Buni and gradually truly fell in love with her.

▲Young-gu the Fool (far right, foreground) and Mayor Roh of Dong-gu District (second from right, foreground) salute at the time of lowering ceremony of the Nation Flag of Korea with ambassadors and local leaders.

However, Buni was not very happy because she was coldly treated by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, but she endured all such hardships and looked after Yeong-gu faithfully.

Buni gives birth to a babyboy and this very much reduces her hard time from the in-laws. This, however, does not last very long as her past (serving guests as a mistress at a tavern) becomes known to her in-laws. They chase her out of their home.

The Korean War breaks out in 1950 and many people take refuge in Busan to escape the danger from the war. Buni now all on her own takes refuge in Busan and there she works hard at a dining house and, with the passage of time, starts making good money and saves a lot of them as her food becomes popular among the guests.

Having made so much money, Buni makes donations to poor people and retarded persons like her ex-husband. Then she makes a really big donation for the benefit of society, and this is widely reported by newspapers and TV.
Her ex-husband and his family see the news and Buni and Yeong-gu have a tearful reunion at the Daejeon Railroad Station.

Buni buys back the old house where she lived with her husband and in-laws and she has lived happily ever after.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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