“The Long Night of Science” was presented on June 14, 2008 on the campus of the Freie Universität Berlin, under a theme of “The smartest night of the year.” This event was part of a collaborative initiative of more than 100 science-related institutions in Berlin and Potsdam, including universities, colleges, and research institutes, which opened the doors of their laboratory facilities, lecture halls, and scientific exhibitions to the public.
Everybody was invited to learn more about recent research activities, take part in scientific experiments, and in case of regional studies, to experience foreign cultures. The Institute of Korean Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin also opened its doors to the public and offered a special cultural program based on a theme of “Experience Korea with All of Your Senses!” Starting at 5 p.m. with a Samulnori workshop, interested visitors and passersby steadily made their way into the open court area of the institute. Here, the visitors had a chance to learn about and enjoy a presentation of Korea’s traditional percussion music. From the very outset, the director of the Korean Studies institute, Dr. Brochlos, and the group who helped to organize this event, were pleasantly surprised by the keen interest of visitors, who represented a broad cross-section of society, including a wide range of ages and backgrounds. University students, younger students, and adults crammed into the performance area to enjoy the pulsating Samulnori rhythms. Although only one presentation was planned, an impromptu encore was necessary due to the audience’s enthusiastic response. And after the demonstration, many people were interested in trying to play the various instruments.Taste of Korean Culture
Thereafter, calligraphy Master Byong Oh demonstrated the art of writing Chinese characters as well as Korean Hangeul letters to the visitors. Of note, any visitor could request to have their name or a short message written in Hangeul by Master Byong Oh himself. Since he was able to take requests for only one hour, this was not enough time to accommodate all the people who stood in line. But one fortunate person was able to have his romantic message for his girlfriend written out in Hangeul.
At about 6 p.m., a kimchi-making event got underway. This traditional fermented vegetable dish has come to represent Korean cuisine worldwide. With the advice and pointers from a professional food specialist, visitors tried to prepare their own kimchi, and of course taste the end product. In addition, a variety of traditional Korean dishes, provided by the Korea Foundation Berlin Office, were available for tasting by the visitors. Kimchi is not particularly popular among the German people since it is too spicy for their tastes, along with having an excessive amount of garlic, which they are not accustomed to. However, I have since acquired a taste for kimchi, but the batch I prepared was too spicy, because I added too much chili and garlic.
The Korean Studies institute also organized informational lecture presentations. At 7 p.m., language instructor and scholar of Korean Zen Buddhism, Chon Namhee, gave a lecture on the Buddhist religion of Korea, and briefly introduced meditation techniques. For this presentation, the lecture room was filled to capacity, with people in all the seats and others sitting on the floor, or looking in through a window, like me. Still, I did not hear any complaints about the less than comfortable accommodations.
In addition, a presentation by Dr. Lee Yoon-kyoung, a lecturer at the institute, and visiting professor Dr. Sonja Haeussler, discussed the subject of generational change in Korean literature. The information was well received by the audience, which reflects a growing interest in Korean literature among the German people, even though the availability of Korean literary works that have been translated into German remains quite limited.Student Exchange Program
Jan Janowski and I have been the first students of the Korean Studies program of the Berlin institute who participated in an exchange program, under which we visited Korea in 2007. In Korea, Jan Janowski studied for two semesters at Korea University, while I participated in a two-semester exchange program at Yonsei University. In a one-hour presentation, we described our personal experiences, study activities, campus life, and life in Korea, including our adjustment to culture shock. Of course, other students with an interest in this exchange program were curious about the living conditions, cultural differences, and participating universities in Korea.
Finally, Hur Joon-young introduced selected Korean films that highlighted the complex relations between South and North Korea. The featured films were mainly about the tension between South and North Korea, while also seeking to explain the difficult history of the Korean Peninsula and the actual situation of the separated countries. A quiz contest, with donated items as prizes, added to the interest and entertainment of the film presentation.
The lecture presentations and cultural demonstrations were well attended by a larger than expected crowd, resulting in the inability of certain people to fully participate in various activities. The Koreana magazine and informational materials on universities and institutions in Korea attracted considerable attention, which visitors were pleased to receive copies to take them home with them.