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Belgium celebrating 110 years with charity concert

A new chapter is being written in the longstanding diplomatic relationship between Belgium and Korea.

A charity concert celebrating the 110th anniversary of the start of those ties is to give back to the community by helping a well-known doctor often recognized by her blue eyes.

Marie-Helene Brasseur or “the doctor with blue eyes” as she is affectionately known, came to Korea 39 years ago as a nurse to care for a different nation then suffering from poverty and ill-health.

As a nurse she was dissatisfied with what she could do to help Seoul’s ailing citizens so she went on to master the Korean language and completed her studies at Chung Ang University Medical College in order to become a doctor and fulfill her dream.

Today she is like a saint to many at the Jeon Jin Sang Clinic in Seoul treating countless of the city’s poorest people without demanding anything in return.

She said that the need for such services still exist here: “Korea has well developed throughout the years but today poverty is hidden between high-rises and the successes of Korea.”

The Euro Asia Chamber Players will team up local violinist Kim Jung-ah, pianist Cho Hyun-young, Belgium cellist Didier Poskin and Seoul’s very own Belgium Ambassador and bassoonist Pierre Clement Dubuisson at the Catholic Cathedral in Bangbae-dong on Sept. 23 at 8 p.m.
(From left to right) Belgian Ambassador Pierre Clement Dubuisson, conductor Patrick Davin, artistic director Michel Stockhem and cellist Didier Poskin. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
(From left to right) Belgian Ambassador Pierre Clement Dubuisson, conductor Patrick Davin, artistic director Michel Stockhem and cellist Didier Poskin. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

Under the framework of the anniversary, the embassy has also set up another concert with the KBS Symphony Orchestra featuring conductor Patrick Davin on Sept. 22.

Dubuisson explained the orchestra and the soloists will also record a compact disk devoted to the 19th century Belgium composer Adrien Francois Servais.

“He was very famous in his life and his music is very difficult play but very pleasant to listen to,” said Dubuisson.

The ambassador added that a wealth of events and visits are planned for this auspicious year such as visits by the Belgium foreign minister in mid-October followed by the Walloon Region minister of economy and research a few days later.

On October 21-22, a modern dance team from Belgium will perform under the umbrella of the International Theater Festival at the National Theater.

“Economic relations can’t stand alone; they have to be supported by humanitarian actions and by culture,” said Dubuisson.

The century old relationship started in 1892 before any exchange of diplomats had taken place but it was not until 1901 that Belgium joined the ranks of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Japan and opened a permanent mission with a resident envoy.

“Basic documents from the first ambassador here was to develop friendly and economic relations,” said Dubuisson. “So even then, economic diplomacy was a priority and it has remained like that.”

It was not until the Korean War that relations flowered between both countries when about 3,000 Belgium soldiers came in the defense of South Korea from a northern aggression.

“Belgium paid a heavy toll during this war, losing over 200 lives so that Korea would become prosperous and free,” he said.

Since the end of the war, several Belgium citizens came to Korea to help alleviate the hardship experienced by the nation’s people.

Some helped in the medical sector like Brasseur, others helped in culture and education by publishing the first Korea-Dutch dictionary.

“Today, if a Korean student wants to study Dutch, it is made possible thanks to this dictionary,” noted Dubuisson.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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