The Czech Info Center is on the third floor of Castle Praha in Hongdae in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
This is the sixth of the series introducing cultural centers of different countries in Seoul. ― Ed.
Czech culture is quite well known in Korea, at least more than one might think. From classical music to a number of Korean musical productions with music composed by Czech musicians, the presence of Czech culture has been quite strong for years.
“Music is fairly well known here. Dvorjak, Smetana … classical music has very good positioning in Korea. But with (other type of) Czech arts, it is a bit tricky,” said Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr., who also heads Czech Info Center in Hongdae, northern Seoul.
As part of the center’s effort in bringing more of the rich Czech culture to Korea, the first exhibition on the European country’s modern arts will be held in December.
“This year, there will be the first major exhibition on modern Czech arts at the end of this year, probably at the National Museum of Contemporary Arts in Deoksugung,” the ambassador said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
In 2013, works by Alphonse Mucha, a famous Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist from the late 19th century, are also coming.
Along with modern artwork, the center aims to introduce other big-name Czech writers to Korea.
“There is a niche (in the Korean book market) that not so many Czech writers are known.”
Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
“Milan Kundera and Franz Kafka are so well known here. (Their reputation in Korea) helps me introduce more names,” he said.
Stressing a long tradition of cultural exchanges between the two countries, the ambassador said there’s a need to establish more direct exchange between contemporary writers in the two countries. Praha was the second city in Europe after Saint Petersburg in Russia where a MA course in Korean studies was established in 1950, a decade earlier than that of London and Paris.
“The first Korean novel translated directly to Czech came in 1947,” he said
“That means there is more than 50 years of knowledge of Korean arts and culture by Czech experts,” he added.
Poet Ko Un went to Praha for the second time last year to a major book fair. Works by Korean writers Han Mal-sook and Lee Moon-yeol are expected to be translated into Czech in cooperation with the Korean Foundation and the Korea Literature Translation Institute.
Currently located on the third floor of Castle Praha Building in Hongdae, the center provides various information on Czech culture, tourism, education and business.
The size of the center is quite small, but it has been holding a series of small exhibitions on art and photography. The center will soon expand not only the space size but also its services to Koreans interested in the Czech Repubilc. There are 26 Czech cultural centers around the world including New York and Tokyo. And Seoul will be the next one to have “a full-pledged cultural center.”
“There is big interest in Czech culture among the Korean population, particularly those who visited parts of Czech Republic including Praha,” he said. According to recent research by Czech government, more than 100,000 Koreans have visited a year.
The Czech Info Center closes on every Sunday and Monday. For more information, visit www.czechinfo.or.kr or call (02) 3143-3148.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)