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Academic Window
Sowing the Seeds of Korean Studies in South America

2008 Lecture Tour to Paraguay and Peru
Choi Nak-won
Professor Department of Spanish-Latin American Language and Literature,
Chonbuk University
The Foundation sponsors a Lecture Tour to Central and South America series to broaden understanding about Korea and to promote Korean Studies in this region, through the presentation of lectures on Korea-related themes. The recently implemented lecture tour for 2008, which included presentations in Paraguay and Peru by two Korean scholars, focused on such subjects as Korea’s economic development, culture, and educational system.

Heightening Awareness of Korea
It was indeed a long journey. We arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay, our first destination, about 33 hours after our departure from Korea. The venue for our presentation was the auditorium of the School of Accounting, Administration, and Economics, of the Catholic University “Our Lady of the Assumption,” in Paraguay. For my part, I spoke on the topic of “economic development of Korea and the role of education,” which included the aid of various visual materials.
Thereafter, Professor Ko Hye-sun of Dankook University gave a presentation on Korean culture and Hangeul. Following the lectures, several members of the audience, which included about 150 students, professors, and a senior diplomat who had served in the Asian region for a number of years, asked various questions about such matters as the Korean language prior to the creation of Hangeul, differences between the homogeneous character of Korean society and the diversity of Paraguay’s society, which includes immigrant descendants and native peoples, the influences of education, and an assessment of President Park Chung Hee.

Globalization of Korean Literature
The following day, we headed to Peru for additional presentations. After arriving at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, we made our way to the Institute of Oriental Studies, the host of our visit. At the Institute’s School of Humanities, I noticed Spanish translations of Korean literary works displayed in a bookshelf alongside the entrance. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on the translation of the “Story of Chunhyang” into Spanish, for its publication for readers in Spanish-language countries. So, I naturally paid keen interest to these translations of various Korean literary works, which represented a globalization of Korean literature. And I felt a sense of pride for my contributions to the translation of Korean literature into Spanish.

When I presented a Spanish translation of the “Story of Chunhyang” to Professor León, the director of the institute, after our meeting, he expressed his sincere appreciation, while noting that this precious gift would be greatly treasured by the institute. The first lecture session in Peru, at the auditorium of the School of Humanities, included an audience of about 140 people. With an attentive interest throughout the lecture, the audience listened carefully to the two scholars from Korea, a faraway country on the other side of the world. Various people asked questions about the influences of Christianity on Korean thought, relative to the more fundamental presence of Buddhism and Confucianism, and the role of bureaucrats in Korea’s government-led economic system.

Diplomatic Academy of Peru
We enjoyed Korean food for lunch, which was part of the “Korean Culture Week” activities being held at the university, and then headed for the next venue, the Diplomatic Academy of Peru. This special presentation had been arranged for students of the Diplomatic Academy, where the next-generation of Peru’s leaders are educated. The intellectual curiosity of these elite students was evident in their questions about the practical benefits of attracting foreign scientists in the 1970s, the role of women in the process of economic development and in Korea’s current society, and cooperative relations with other countries during the economic development of Korea.

Korea’s Economic Development
The final lecture of the 2008 lecture tour was held at the National University of San Marcos, Peru’smost prestigious national university. The venue for the lecture was the auditorium of the School of Humanities. The atmosphere was serious amid humid conditions, while the audience was not that large in number. With this being the final presentation, I exerted all my energy to impart by knowledge about Korea’s developments to the audience.

Central and South America is a primary region for Korea’s “resource diplomacy” efforts. The region is already aware of Korea because of the arrival of Korean immigrants there from early on. The Spanish language and a so-called Hispanic culture prevail throughout the region, since many countries are former longtime colonies of Spain. In terms of trade, the region offers substantial opportunities for Korea. Our role is thus focused on identifying effective ways to develop closer relations and to sow the seeds of Korean Studies in this region.
Ideally, it would be more desirable to provide a two-week or one-month intensive course on Korea-related subjects, rather than a one-time lecture presentation. Moreover, the ability to have Korean Studies take root in the region will depend on long-term efforts to provide support and promote cooperative relations. Finally, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Korea Foundation for its support for the organization of the lecture tour, which was so smoothly undertaken.

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