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French language to be championed at PyeongChang Olympics

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Published : 2017-03-20 17:32
Updated : 2017-03-20 17:36

French is one of two official languages of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Korea.

Fleur Pellerin, high envoy for the games appointed by the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF), believes the occasion will be the venue to celebrate diverse cultures and languages, in keeping with the Olympic spirit of friendship and solidarity.

“The PyeongChang Games will be an occasion for Korea to demonstrate its attachment to Francophonie, a wider network of family Korea has joined,” the Korea-born former French minister of culture and communications said at the French Embassy in Seoul on March 13.

“This is a strong asset for Korea’s diplomacy, as the country becomes an active member on the world stage.”

In November last year, Korea became the first and only nation in Northeast Asia to be an observer member of OIF, an organization of 57 French-speaking governments and 23 observer states that popularizes its language and cultures around the globe, as well as democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Founded in 1970 as the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation, the institution has championed democracy, solidarity and technological collaboration among the nations during the postwar decolonization and Cold War. As over 750 million French-speakers are expected to be in the world by 2050, the OIF maintains affiliations with scholars, students, translators, entrepreneurs and artists globally.

The organization is helmed by Secretary-General Michaelle Jean, Canada’s former governor general from 2005 to 2010.

Seoul’s membership will establish a firm foundation for strengthening ties with member states, particularly African countries that make up the largest regional grouping, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are some 40,000 French speakers and 50 university departments for French studies in Korea.

The OIF inaugurated its support group -- the Council of Promotion of Francophonie in Korea, comprised of diplomats -- in Seoul in late 2015, which supports cultural events, academic conferences and business partnerships year-round. The council is chaired by Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh this year.

Some 30 events are scheduled in Korea between Monday and March 31 by the council. For more information, visit www.francophonie.or.kr.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)