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Park moves cultural diplomacy forward in France

Considering cultural exchange one of the most sustainable channels of diplomacy, President Park Geun-hye has been sparing no efforts in touting Korean culture, especially during her overseas trips.

This year, marking the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations with France, the South Korean government is determined to create synergy with hallyu, or the Korean Wave, to foster friendly relations with the European country.

Park landed in Paris late Wednesday as the final part of her 12-day, four-nation trip encompassing Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Her arrival took place amid “K-Culture Week in France,” a weeklong nationwide festival during which Korean arts, music, cuisine, handicrafts and other cultural aspects are to be showcased in Paris, Nantes and Nice.
President Park Geun-hye arrives in Paris on Thursday. Yonhap.
President Park Geun-hye arrives in Paris on Thursday. Yonhap.
Despite her fully packed three-day schedule, Park allotted several hours on Thursday evening to attend KCON 2016 France, a cultural event embracing K-pop and business conventions, held in Accor Hotels Arena in Paris.

All 12,000 tickets for the event sold out within three hours, with 40 percent of them being purchased from countries outside France, reflecting the extensive leverage of K-culture throughout the European continent, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The pop music concert, starring K-pop groups such as SHINee, BTS, Block B and F.T. Island, was the largest K-pop concert in Europe. It came as part of the government’s initiative to link the Korean culture with industries by combining concert and convention. This was first introduced in 2012 and has since been held in different parts of the world.

Before attending the concert, Park stopped by convention booths operated by some 60 Korean companies, most of them small and medium-sized businesses involved in food, tourism, education and other cultural content.

Park has emphasized the need for culture and industry to combine and create new values.

“Our future growth will depend on how we industrialize the cultural sector and draw creative content out of it,” Park said last month at the groundbreaking ceremony for K-Culture Valley in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

She also described France as an optimal partner for creative economy and cultural prosperity -- two of her leading policy buzz words.

“The two states have been working together for the past 130 years to solve crucial agendas such as climate change and poverty, and thus to promote the happiness of humanity,” Park said through a written congratulatory address at a Korea-France leadership forum in March this year.

“Each country is to the other (the) best partner in the economic and cultural sectors.”

This year’s state visit, which was Park’s third trip to France during her term and her first as a state guest, was initiated by French President Francois Hollande amid a move to mark 2015-2016 as the “Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges”

As part of the project, the “Year of Korea in France” was designated from September 2015 to August 2016, and the reciprocating “Year of France in Korea” from January to December this year.

“KCON will serve to further attract the European society’s interest in Korean culture and enhance the credibility of Korean companies,” said Kim Sang-ryul, senior presidential secretary for education and culture.

“President Park’s visit (to France) and participation in the event will add new momentum to the rise of hallyu.”

Park also set out to promote educational exchanges with France, a country where she once had spent her younger days as a student.

Marking Park’s state visit, the International University Campus in Paris said it will soon add a Korean Pavilion that may accommodate some 260 South Korean students. The extension, which is to be the first made at the campus over the past 40 years, will be at the South Korean government’s expense.

To further encourage academic exchanges between the two countries, University of Paris VI, also known as the Pierre and Marie Curie University, is to confer on Friday an honorary doctorate for natural sciences to Park. The South Korean president previously majored in electronic engineering at Sogang University.

She will then move on to Grenobles, in southeastern France, where she spent some six months as a postgraduate in 1974, before the sudden death of her mother Yuk Young-soo brought her back home.

“The few days that I spent in Grenobles remain to this day one of the happiest memories of my life,” the president said in her memoirs, as well as in a meeting with Korean residents during her visit to France in 2013.

By Bae Hyun-jung(
Korea Herald Youtube