|Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho (left) and his spouse Mariko pose for a photo with Mariko’s floral arrangement and Koro’s calligraphic work during the Garden Club of Seoul’s flower show at Raemian Gallery in Anguk-dong, Seoul, Thursday. (Philip Iglauer/The Korea Herald)|
Spouses of ambassadors have long participated in the Garden Club, and the club’s steward and flower muse, Im Hwa-kong, has been the very embodiment of floral design in the diplomatic community since the club’s founding more than five decades ago.
“The show would not have been possible of course without the support and stewardship of our dear friend, Im Hwa-kong, who so tirelessly gives her time each year and puts on magnificent displays of flower arranging,” said Anne Wightman, president of the Garden Club and spouse of British Ambassador to South Korea Scott Wightman.
The 92-year-old Im dedicated her life to floral design, first receiving professional training during the Japanese colonial period.
Later, during the rule of strongman Park Chung-hee, Im provided the floral arrangements displayed at Cheong Wa Dae. She knew President Park Geun-hye, Cheong Wa Dae’s current resident, when she was a young girl.
Flower arrangements by spouses of envoys from more than a dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, Egypt, Brunei, Chile, Indonesia, Iraq, Georgia, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, Singapore, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States were on display, along with many arrangements by South Korean participants.
Mariko Bessho, spouse of Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho, included cherry blossoms, Japan’s national flower, in her arrangement. Her husband contributed a poem in Korean as a calligraphic work to accompany her display.
The Garden Club began in 1957 with the purpose of stimulating interest in South Korea’s soil and climatic conditions, and its trees, shrubs and flowers, said club president Wightman.
The club is officially supposed to have 36 members, 20 international and 16 South Korean members, but currently the membership exceeds that number. Still, with the vagaries of diplomatic life ― the comings and goings of envoys each year ― the number should return to the official 36 members, Wightman said.