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ELTE Builds a Foundation for Korean Studies in Hungary

20th Anniversary of Korea-Hungary Diplomatic Relations
Csoma Mozes
Vice Chairperson, Korean Department,
Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
The various commemorative events held to observe the 20th anniversary of Korea-Hungary diplomatic relations included an international conference organized and hosted by Eötvös Loránd University, which served as a timely occasion to assess the efforts to promote Korean Studies in Hungary.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between Korea and Hungary. Although not widely known, the two countries actually opened formal relations some 120years ago, when a treaty of friendship, commerce , and n a v i g a t i o n was concluded between Joseon and Austria- Hungary. However, bilateral relations were curtailed after the Korean Peninsula was annexed by Japan in 1910.
Thereafter, in February 1, 1989, the Republic of Korea and Hungary signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations, thus making Hungary the first East European socialist country to normalize ties with Korea. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Korea and Hungary have implemented a variety of cultural events throughout this year, including the release in each country of publications on notable aspects of their 120-year relationship.

ELTE Conference
A particularly noteworthy event, related to the 20th anniversary of Korea-Hungary diplomatic relations, was an international conference organized and hosted by Eötvös Loránd University(ELTE), with support from the Korea Foundation. The conference opened with welcoming remarks from ELTE President Hudecz Ferenc, followed by congratulatory messages by Korean Ambassador to Hungary Suh Chungha, and Institute of East Asian Studies Director Hamar Imre, who represented the Faculty of Humanities, ELTE. In his congratulatory remarks, Professor Hamar Imre expressed his sincere appreciation to the Korea Foundation for its support of the conference event. Representing the Korea Foundation, Berlin Office Director Min Young-joon expressed her gratitude to ELTE for its efforts to promote Korean Studies in Hungary. Thereafter, two Hungarian diplomats, who played pivotal roles in the establishment of Korea-Hungary diplomatic relations in 1989, provided personal accounts about the negotiation process between the two countries. The proceedings on the f i r s t day included presentations on the status of Korea in the world by Professor Lee Eun-jeung of Free University of Berlin, Germany; Professor Hamar Imre of the Institute of East Asian Studies, ELTE; and Professor Pavel Leshakov of Moscow State University. As for the session on the second day, in large part it focused on Korean language and literature. Of note, Professor Miriam Loweinsteinova of Charles University, the Czech Republic, who praised Kim Yushin as a hero of Korean historical prose, attracted considerable attention. In addition, Professor Osvath Gabor of the Korean Department, ELTE, elaborated on the Korean War and its influences on Korean literature, which peaked the interest of conference participants as well as students in the audience.
After the morning session, the Korean Studies scholars from five countries enjoyed a lunch that included goulash, a representative dish of Hungary. In the afternoon session on Korean culture and art, insightful presentations were made by Professor Cho In-soo, of Korea National University of Arts, and Professor Kim Le-na, of Hongik University. In the session on Korean history and politics, Chair Professior Shin Bok-ryong of Konkuk University discussed the politico-ideological aftermath of Korea’s March 1 Movement (1919), which this year marked its 90th anniversary.

Korean Studies in Hungary
The presence of Korean Studies in Hungary emerged in the late 1990s, which led to the establishment of a Korean Department and bachelordegree program for Korean Studies in 2008. Currently, the Korean Department at ELTE maintains a student quota of 15 for Korean Studies and another 15 for a minor in the Korean language. For sometime, Korea has been less well known than China and Japan in Hungary; however, Korea is steadily gaining recognition among the Hungarian people thanks to the growing emergence of Korean businesses, television, the Korean Department of ELTE, and various cultural activities of the Korean Embassy in Budapest. In recent years, awareness of the ELTE Korean Department has shown steady growth among Hungary’s academic circles and general public.
The Korean Department of ELTE, which organized the international conference as part of this year’s commemorative events, is one of the university’s newer departments and as such has little previous experience with this kind of project, involving guest participants from abroad. The participation of distinguished professors from Korea and other countries contributed much to the stature of the conference as well as the administrative experience of the Korean Department, which is now positioned to serve as a center for Korean Studies in Hungary and the neighboring European region.

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