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Seven ambassadors, madams attend 2015 Yeongam Wangin Culture FestivalBaekje Scholar Wangin spreads Chinese character, art to Japan in 4th century

Ambassador Krzysztof Ignacy Majka of Poland and six other ambassadors visited Yeongam, Jeollanam-do Province on April 9-10, 2015 at the invitation of Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung of the Yeongam County, most of them accompanied by their spouses, and attended the 2015 Wangin Culture Festival, one of the important cultural festivals in the region (list of participants at the end of this Article). The Festival was in memory of the noted scholar of the Baekje Dynasty of Korea, Wangin Baksa, who visited Japan at the invitation of Emperor Ojin of Japan (15th Monarch of Japan) in the 17th Year of King Asin of Baekje (AD 392 to 405), and spread in Japan the Confucian classic (including 1,000 basic Chinese characters and the Analects of the Confucius), calligraphy, blacksmith skills, pottery, weaving and various other forms of art and craftsmanship.

▲Ambassadors and leaders of the central and local governments open the 2015 Wangin Culture Festival on the theme of he Light of Wangin

After the Asiana plane touched down at the Gwangju International Airport, the ambassadors and their spouses were invited to a coffee where they were briefed by Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung of the Yeongam County on the schedule of the Festival and then proceeded to venue of the opening ceremony at the Culture Park named Bongseondae. All the ambassadors were invited to the platform to official declare the Festival open with Korean dignitaries who included Governor Lee Nak-yun of Jeollanam-do Province, Rep. Hwang Ju-hong of the National Assembly, Mayor Jeon of the Yeongam County, Chairman Kim Han-nam of the Organizing Committee of the 2015 Wangin Culture Festival and various other local and international leaders, including Chinese Consul General Wang Xianmin for Gwangju and representatives of the Hirakata City of Japan.

▲Seated at the front are, from left, Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung of Yeongwam, Governor Lee Nak-yon of Jeollanamdo, Rep. Hwang Ju-hong, Amb. and Mrs. Krzysztof Majka of Poland. Amb. and Mrs. Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka, Amb. and Mrs. Raul S. Hernandez of the Philippines, Amb. and Mrs. Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Amb. and Mrs. Milan Lajciak of Slovakia, Amb. Tomas Husak of Czech Republic and Amb. Gonzalo Ortiz of Spain

The opening ceremony was followed by dinner at the Wolchul-san Tourist Hotel, where Vice Governor Ko Young-yoon introduced the Festival to the ambassadors and other guests as Mayor Jeon was away to attend another important meeting. Speaking to the guests, Vice Mayor Ko said in part: “The Wangin Culture Festival is the only Historical Personality Festival in Korea that takes place along the Cherry Blossom Tree-lined Road of 100-ri (40 kilometers) in memory of the Great Will of Dr. Wangin and introduce the tradition and culture of the Yeongam County” (further details toward the end of this Article).

▲Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung of Yeongam County speaks at the opening ceremony. Mayor introduced each ambassador attending the opening ceremony.

In response, Ambassador Majka, most senior among all ambassadors and therefore performing the role of the dean of the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps, said, “As 1600 years ago when Dr. Wangin went to Japan, spreading Confucian Classics (including calligraphy, pottery, blacksmith techniques, etc.) now the Korean spirit is manifesting itself differently?as a Hallyu, K-Pop, Gangnam style or a next and next versions of smartphones, TV sets and many other items. All they support the image of modern and advanced country and society in the world.” (See further details toward the end of this article.)On Day Two, after an American breakfast at the Hotel restaurant, the ambassadors and their spouses were invited to visit the Gichan Land Park of the Wolchul-san Mountain and toured the Gayageum Sanjo Theme Park, where the ambassadors and madams inspected various traditional Korean zithers and other musical instruments and had hands-on experience in them.Then they moved to the Dogap-sa Buddhist Temple and inspected various sites of the Temple, including pagodas.At the temple, ambassador and madams each signed their name on the reverse side of a roofing tile to be used at the time of reconstruction of the temple buildings in the future.

▲Ambassador Krzysztof Ignacy Majka of Poland (left) presents Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung with a Plaque of Appreciation.

▲Yongam Police Lieutenant Kim Jae-chang (7th from left) poses with the ambassadors and spouses making a victory sign after safe protection of the VIP guests. He assigned one plainclothesman to each VIP guest to prevent another Lippert Case.

It is supposed to bring good lunch and health to the signing person.Following the visit to the Dogap-sa Temple, the visiting ambassadors and spouses were invited to a luncheon hosted by Mayor Jeon.Speaking to the guests, Mayor Jeon said, “By virtue of the gracious visit by Your Excellencies and Madams to our Wangin Culture Festival, I believe that our exchange and cooperation with various countries of the world will increase and become more active. And I expect that we will be able to continue to increase our relations with your countries through various interesting and exciting sights and events where you will personally experience the history and culture of the Yeongam County.” (See further details of speech at the end of this Article.)Perhaps due to the unfortunate incident of Ambassador Mark Lippert of the United States in Seoul who suffered an injury by a leftist, Mayor Jeon and Senior Superintendent Min Sung-tae of the Yeongam Police Station took special security precaution and assigned more than half a dozen plain clothed detectives to protect the ambassadors and madams from any possible incident against them. The under-cover local Korean police officers paid special attention to each ambassador and madam, as well as close escorting of the bus, and worked beyond the call of duty, which was highly appreciated by the diplomats.After the tour, Ambassador Majka made the following comment on the Festival:Thank you for inviting us to the Yeongam Wangin Baekje Culture Festival. It was a very interesting trip and experience, organized in a big scale and showing a long tradition of cultural contacts between Korea and Japan. For us?diplomats, it was also very interesting to have lively discussions with Mayor Jeon Dong-pyung and the Vice-Mayor Ko Young-Yoon.

▲Ambassadors and spouses listen to the Gayageum music. they are, from left, Ambs. Krzysztof Ignacy Majka of Poland, Gonzalo Ortiz of Spain and Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka; Mrs. Elena Lajciakova (spouse of the ambassador of Slovakia), Mrs. Konul Teymurova (spouse of the ambassador of Azerbaijan) and Mrs. Ma. Ana A. Hernandez (spouse of the ambassador of Philippines)

They were very open to discuss the history of the region, present aspirations of the people as well as challenges, including political realities of the whole North-East Asia region. ?I was impressed by Mr. Jeon Dong Pyung’s ??knowledge and experience resulting from a long service for the local governments. He has been holding the position of the Mayor since 10 months only ?but ?before it he had served 3 tenures as governor of the region. Despite a short visit we were able to have a tour around cultural and historical sites, what was equally interesting, especially that cherry blossoms came into full flower at that time.Dinner speech by Vice Mayor Ko Yeong-yun of Yeongam CountyExcellencies and Madams, welcome to the Yeongam County. Thank you for your kind visit to Yeongam, which is a long way from Seoul.I express my heart-felt gratitude to the Excellencies and Madams of Poland, Sri Lanka, Colombia, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Slovakia and the Czech Republic for their kind visit to Yeongam to make the Wangin Culture Festival all the more meaningful and brilliant. My gratitude also goes to the leaders of The Korea Post.The Yeongam County of Jeollanam-do Province is noted for very important historical and cultural properties, which include the National Park Wolchul-san Mountains and the National Treasure Buddhist Temple Dogap-sa. In particular, famed Korean scholar, Dr. Wangin, visited Japan 1,600 years ago with Lunyu (Analects of Confucius) and One Thousand Basic Chinese Characters, and opened the Era of the brilliant Asuka Culture of Japan. Dr. Wangin is the Spiritual Teacher of the Yeongam County and the Great Cultural Pioneer of Japan.

▲Ambassador Majka (second from right) sampling the rock-bottom water

▲Ambassadors write their names on the reverse side of the roofing tiles to be used for the expansion or reconstruction of the temples. Usually done by donors, they remain forever with the temples and are supposed to provide the signers with perpetual happiness and prosperity as well as good health.

We are living now in the world which many call a global village. However, the spirit of sharing and exchanging ideas, the spirit of Dr. Wangin mission from Beakje period to Japan, the spirit of cultural diplomacy (the term which we are using now frequently) is equally important now as it was 1600 years ago. Nothing has changed in that respect.I personally feel, and I am sure many of us present here feel the same, that the spirit of Korean assertiveness, the power and will for dynamic expansion is still present among the Korean society and is manifested in many fields including politics, business and culture. I wish that this spirit of “fighting” will be maintained in the Korean society for the years to come. As 1600 years ago when Dr. Wangin went to Japan, spreading Confucian Classics (including calligraphy, pottery, blacksmith techniques etc.) now the Korean spirit is manifesting itself differently-as a Hallyu, K-Pop, Gangnam style or a next and next versions of smartphones, TV sets and many others items. All they support the image of modern and advanced country and society in the world. So. Let me congratulate the authorities and the people of Yeongam County for giving so much importance to the Wangin Cultural Festival which apart from being a great tourist attraction is also reminding us about the importance of cooperation in a peaceful and creative way. I am sure that such evening like today, giving us an opportunity of interaction together as the international community, serves well the purpose. Luncheon speech by Mayor Jeon Dong-pyeong of Yeongam: I hope that Your Excellencies and Madams have had a good time in Yeongam. Time has passed so fast and it is already time we must reluctantly bid farewell to each other. It has been only a short time, but I hope that Your Excellencies and Madams have enjoyed your time in Yeongam and that it has been comfortable. At this time, I would like to solicit your gracious acceptance of my sincere apology for my inability to share more time with the distinguished guests this time.

▲Ambassadors and spouses pose with the Five-story Stone Pagoda at the Dogap-sa Temple. At far left is General Affairs Manager Kim Myung-sun of Yeongam County.

The Wangin Culture Festival is the only Historical Personality Festival in Korea that takes place along the Cherry Blossom Tree-lined Road of 100-ri (40 kilometers) in memory of the Great Will of Dr. Wangin and introduce the tradition and culture of the Yeongam County. Alongside the Wangin Culture Festival, there will also be held the Hanok (Traditional Korean House) Architecture Expo of the Republic of Korea and I hope that it will prove a meaningful and memorable visit. After your stay in Yeongam, I would hope that Your Excellencies and Madams will remember the Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival and introduce it far and wide to the world.Once again, I would like to express my heart-felt gratitude and a warm welcome to you all for your kind visit to the Yeongam County to congratulate the opening of the Wangin Culture Festival. I hope that your stay in our County will be a pleasant one all the way. Thank you. Return speech by Ambassador Majka: Honorable Mr. Vice-Mayor Ko Yong-yun and Madam of Yeongam County First of all I would like to convey to Mr. Mayor, Mr. Vice Mayor and authorities of the Yeongam County and to Honorable Mr. Lee chairman of The Korea Post sincere thanks for inviting us to this meaningful event and for treating us with such a sumptuous dinner We are grateful for preparing for us-diplomats such an interesting program which in a short time will give a chance to learn more about Yeongam County, its history, its meaning in Korean tradition and culture as well as contribution to the modernity. Particularly we are looking forward to participate in the opening ceremony of Dr. Wangin Culture Festival, which is designated by the government of Korea as a Representative Culture Tourism Festival of the Republic of Korea.We already know that Dr. Wangin was a great scholar, animator of science and culture who not only had enjoyed a high respect due to his knowledge and intellectual qualities in what is now Yeongam County in 3rd and 4th century, during the Baekje Dynasty. But, furthermore, he was given a task to share his knowledge, knowledge of the Korean people at that time, with Japan during the Emperor Ojin dynasty and on the invitation of the Emperor. We can say that Dr. Wangin was a great cultural pioneer and in a diplomatic meaning a true ambassador of Korean spirit and culture to Japan 1600 years ago. This fact is worth of mentioning in this particularly year--marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan. Now, we are living in different times and in different political, economic and cultural environment. The world has become more open, more accessible for travelers, for exchanging ideas through the modern technological devices, more open to political and economic contacts.

▲a complimentary photo the Asiana ‘girls’ who took good care of the ambassadors and spouses a the VIP Lounge and up to the boarding time.

Thanks to your gracious visit to our County, I am grateful that the Wangin Culture Festival proved to be all the more meaningful and brilliant event. I offer my sincere gratitude to the Excellencies and Madams of Poland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Spain and other precious guests. By virtue of the gracious visit by Your Excellencies and Madams to our Wangin Culture Festival, I believe that our exchange and cooperation with various countries of the world will increase and become more active. And I expect that we will be able to continue to increase our relations with your countries through various interesting and exciting sights and events where you will personally experience the history and culture of the Yeongam County. In closing, I would like to express my hopes that your stay in the Yeongam County, though it was only a short one, will remain long in your memory and that you will think of Yeongna even while you are away from our county. I also hope that you will introduce the Yeongam County far and wide. I wish you all good health and happiness at all times. I pray for the continued development and prosperity of your country. Thank you for your attention.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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