Thursday, August 17, 2017

S. Korea to showcase ASEAN culture

Culture is often taken for granted. In fact, culture has nurtured us in every way from the way we live, think and die. 

Once Paulo Coelho, a famous writer of The Alchemist, emphasised culture as a prerequisite to establish and maintain peace and prosperity regionally and globally. Coelho mentioned, I quote, ‘Culture makes people understand each other better and if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers’.

We have to attach a great importance to maintain culture and even network between different cultures which will lead us to understand better of ourselves. Even in the diplomatic corps, culture is crucial to bridge a state to another.

ASEAN is no exception. This watershed regional organisation has paid heed to develop and nurture the socio-cultural community along with political-security and economic communities at the end of 2015. At that time, the leaders also adopted a 10-year looking ahead vision entitled with ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. ‘ASEAN’s Socio-Cultural Blueprint 2025’, in particular, praises ‘a people-oriented, people-centred community’ by pursing the goal to achieve ‘a dynamic and harmonious community that is aware and proud of its identity, culture and heritage with the strengthened ability to innovative and proactively contribute to the global community’.

ASEAN timely pledged such goal to envision its regional identity. This is because the region has inherited rich and priceless cultural assets. A diversity of religion, ethnicity and language encompassing Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity has enamoured the international audiences to draw attention on each ASEAN member state’s culture as well as ASEAN culture as whole.

The goal is set now and the means should be sought after. One of the means is the network with 10 ASEAN Dialogue Partners which will encourage and assist ASEAN’s creed to reach its goal. Among the partners, the Republic of Korea (ROK) is considered a pioneer to build a constructive relationship in culture with ASEAN.

Since 1989, ASEAN and the ROK have maintained a high-level partnership in political-security, economic and socio-cultural communities. The partnership was elevated to the strategic partnership in 2010.

Under its supportive relationship, ASEAN-Korea Centre was established in 2009 to promote trade facilitation and investment by highlighting the ASEAN Economic Community. In 2012, the Mission of the Republic of Korea to ASEAN was opened by facilitating the diplomatic ties between the two. On September 1st, ASEAN Culture House will be opened to showcase beautiful ASEAN cultures to the Korean and ASEAN citizens. With these three main ASEAN-supporting organs of ROK, we have conceptualised ‘3 Shared Futures’ with ASEAN, which are Shared Peace, Shared Prosperity and Shared Progress.

As culture has been given more attentions in strengthening the soft diplomacy, the ROK proposed ASEAN Culture House to be built in Busan at the ASEAN-ROK 25th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in 2014. This unique but authentic initiative was welcomed by 10 ASEAN leaders. The rationale behind the ROK’s gesture was that understanding each other’s culture is a key to mutually prosper. In addition, we have observed long enough that Korean cultures from traditional forms to K-Wave have been actively promoted in ASEAN countries through Korea Culture Centres in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. ASEAN culture has not been widely promoted in Korea. In order to overcome a cultural deficit as well as boost a mutual understanding in cultures, we tiptoed into genuine move to host the culture house in Korean soil.

ASEAN Culture House will comprise of 4 storeys with 2 basements. The deck of the building is being built with Kumea, the Indonesian timber and the roof design is inspired by Indonesian traditional house. It will be also equipped with modern technologies such as virtual reality. In line with that, Korea initiated ‘Digitalisation of ASEAN UNESCO heritages’ to virtualise the images of ASEAN UNESCO heritage sites.

Each ASEAN member will be also given its own space to showcase its decent and authentic art and culture to the Korean and ASEAN citizens. To complete the culture house with diverse cultural assets of ASEAN, we have worked closely with each country to procure the artefacts. In the case of Indonesia, we have discussed to organise the country space with diverse woodworks in architecture, gravestone and furniture as well as Garuda.

We also have a grand plan to organise a special inaugural exhibition entitled with ‘Celebrating the beauty of Marriage – ASEAN seen through wedding traditions and cultures’. The theme was chosen to symbolise the House as a marriage in culture between ASEAN and Korea.

I believe ASEAN Culture House will be a pioneer to provide a platform to connect the two different cultures. It will also channel ASEAN-ROK artists’ communities. This is rather ambitious but I strongly envision that the ASEAN Culture House will definitely bring the seed to bloom ASEAN and the ROK cultures in every form in which it will engage all people in the region to understand and empathise each other better and more to realise a truly peaceful and secure region.

This year is culturally watershed as it celebrates jubilee of ASEAN as well as ASEAN-ROK Cultural Exchange year of 2017. There are plentiful events from ‘International Conference on ASEAN-Korea Partnership’ to the future leaders’ conference. I believe the culture house will be a beautiful lighthouse to guide people to learn its own and other cultures better in which it will lead to enlighten the region’s sustainable vision.


The author is ROK ambassador to ASEAN