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‘Be prouder of Korea,’ urge C20 leaders

 Cultural leaders from the Group of 20 advanced and developing nations advised Koreans to be more proud of their unique history and culture in order to better promote the country’s cultural image.

Wrapping up the three-day “immersion” program that allowed them to experience many aspects of Korea’s culture through a panel discussion on Friday, the majority of the participants said they had not known much about the depth and richness of Korean culture because they were simply not exposed to it.

The event, titled Culture 20, was hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) ahead of Seoul’s G20 summit in November.

“I meet Koreans in Italy for business every six months but they never talk about their country. Well, when I promote myself, I’m proud to speak about the beauty of Italy,” said Missoni president Vittorio Missoni, during the discussion session at the Grand InterContinental Hotel in Samseong-dong, Seoul.
Guests at C20 gala dinner hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute pose for photographs Friday at the COEX InterContinental Hotel in Seoul. (Courtesy of CIC)
Guests at C20 gala dinner hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute pose for photographs Friday at the COEX InterContinental Hotel in Seoul. (Courtesy of CIC)

“You surely have a beautiful country but you should be more proud of your country.”

Missoni added that many Westerners are already familiar with brand names like Samsung and LG but are unaware they are actually Korean brands.

Sohn Ji-ae, spokesperson for the Presidential Committee for the G20 Summit who coordinated the C20 discussion, said Korean companies might be intentionally not labeling their products as “Made in Korea.” But Missoni said Korean exporters’ products are so competitive that they need to emphasize “Made in Korea” in the labeling of their products.

Turkish fashion designer Cemil Ipekci said until recently he only ever related Korea to World War II.

Even when he was fascinated by the ancient jewelry and clothes featured in a TV drama about a Silla queen a year and a half ago, he did not know Silla was a Korean kingdom.

The problem in both Korea and Turkey is that older generations have not taught younger generations properly “to be proud of their roots and culture,” Impekci said.

However, other panelists said it may be better if Koreans do not become obsessed with promoting their culture, as Korean culture is already widely known to Westerners.

Film director Jin Won-suk, who has spent the last 15 years in the United States, said American people know much about Korean films and some of them are even familiar with the names of Korean directors like Park Chan-wook and Kim Ki-duk.

“Let’s not be obsessed with the promotion. People will find out sooner or later,” Jin said.

Dorothy Cann Hamilton, CEO of International Culinary Center, said she was “in awe of the legacy” of Korean food and how old and refined it was.

She said she agreed with Jin that Koreans should let outsiders discover more about Korean cuisine by themselves.

“The good news is Korean cuisine has been discovered. Don’t try to push it,” Hamilton said.

“It’s like a pretty woman. If you hold back a little bit, play a little hard to guess, they will love you.”

Judy Joo, a Korean-American celebrity chef who starred as one of the four resident Iron Chefs on the U.K. cooking show of the same name, pointed out that inconsistency in the English translation of Korean foods hurts the branding of it.

“We should learn from the Japanese who have consistent Romanization and translation of the language,” Joo said.

About 200 guests attended the C20 gala dinner which opened with the premier of a video work by internationally acclaimed photographer Bae Bien-U. The winners of the “SipC20 for G20” cocktail contest were also announced during the event. The winning cocktails will be served to some 3,500 guests during November’s G20 dinner. The evening concluded with a fashion show by hanbok designer Damyeon.

By Kim Yoon-mi  (