On May 29, 2008, the academic conference “Korea and the World” was held at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.” This nation-wide conference was dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the Center for Korean Studies, which was built thanks to the financial assistance of the government of the Republic of Korea and the Korea Foundation. The conference was a notable success, with more than 25 participants from Bulgaria, Korea, and China focusing their attention on the continuously increasing role which the Republic of Korea is playing, not only in the region of East Asia, but also worldwide.
Vice-Minister of Education and Sciences Dr. Vanya Dobreva, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea Mr. Kim Myong-jin, Vice-President of Sofia University Prof. Dr. Nedyu Popivanov, Dean of the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology Dr. Petya Yaneva, and Director of the Center for Korean Studies Prof. Dr. Alexander Fedotoff addressed the participants and wished for the continued success of the Korean Studies Program at Sofia University.
Professors and researchers from Sofia University, other Bulgarian universities, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, governmental institutions, guest-lecturers from Korea and China, and a number of students actively participated in the opening ceremony, as well as the discussion sessions.
The first session, moderated by Prof. Dr. Alexander Fedotoff, started with a paper dedicated to the landscape poetry of Yun Seon-do. These poems were analyzed from a point of view of East Asian traditions, in regard to the “poetry of rivers and mountains” (Prof. Dr. Alexander Fedotoff). Prof. Dr. Boika Tsigova reflected upon Zen traditions in Japanese and Korean aesthetic views, while Lyudmila Klasanova offered highlights of the unique complex of Seokguram – the truly magnificent Korean contribution to world culture heritage.
Parallels between Indian and Korean literature and culture were described by Dr. Galina Sokolova and Dr. Milena Bratoeva. Dr. Yana Mancheva delivered a paper on the first “Korean Guide to the Study of Music” (Akhak kwebeom), compiled in 1439 by Seong Hyeon. Dr. Ivanka Vlaeva analyzed music theories in East Asia with a special emphasis on Korean musicology. Albena Todorova compared two modern novels, Gong Ji-young’s My Sister Bongsoon and Banana Yoshimoto’s The Kitchen, based on an emphasis of the female images in the two novels.
The second session, which was moderated by Dr. Svetla Karteva-Dancheva, opened with a presentation by Prof. Dr. Vladimir Ignatovski, who discussed modern Korean cinema and its influence over Asian film production. Dr. Andronika Martonova expanded on this topic by comparing two movies: the Korean Old Boy and its Indian version Zinda. Dr. Svetla Karteva-Dancheva, who specializes in Altaic and Korean Shamanism, participated in the conference with the paper: “Symbolism of the Shaman Mirrors among Altaic Peoples and Koreans.” Irina Sotirova spoke on images and symbols of the folklore paintings found in Korea and Central Asia, while Dr. Raina Beneva also explained about ritual symbols in Korea. Dr. Gergana Petkova analyzed traditional views on houses in Korea and Japan, while Petko Slavov focused attention on the ancestral worship and various similarities in Korea and Japan.
Yanitsa Ivanova moderated the third session, which included a presentation by Dr. Nako Stefanov, who provided an overview of the technological and social- economical challenges of the Republic of Korea, today and in the future. Zornitsa Grekova sought to evaluate the relations between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK after the Cold War period.
This was followed by Ph.D. student Nikolina Kirilova, who focused on the achievements of the Republic of Korea in regard to its advertising sector. Mario Appen reconstructed various historical events, such as the Battle of Talas (751 A.D.), in order to demonstrate the interaction between East Asia and Iran. Yanitsa Ivanova analyzed the Korean Han and certain theories of modern psychology. Dr. Kim So Young focused on various features of Korean food and its influence on neighboring countries. Evelina Hein sought to describe the traditional concepts of happiness among Chinese and Korean people. And finally, Dr. Dong Shuhui of China presented research on Kim Si-seup’s Geumo Sinhwa.
The Fifth Anniversary of the Center for Korean Studies also featured a special performance prepared in the Korean language by our students and professors. Through the end of this year, a photo exhibition on Korea, based on the photos taken by our faculty staff will be on display, as well as an exhibition of our academic publications, translations of materials from Korean into Bulgarian, and related reference materials. The current Korean Studies Program at Sofia University is among the most attractive majors in Bulgaria. Through this program we are keen to bring Korea closer to Europe and to strengthen Bulgaria-Korea cooperative relations.