Turkish art shines light on ties with Korea

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Jul 17, 2017 - 16:46
  • Updated : Jul 17, 2017 - 16:47

Marking the 60th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, the Turkish Embassy helped organize an art exhibition featuring Turkey’s celebrated paintings and calligraphy at the Bank of Korea in Seoul.

The exhibit, titled “Invisible Language,” is a collaboration of the diplomatic mission, the Central Bank of Turkey and the Bank of Korea. Works spanning two centuries were selected from the Central Bank of Turkey’s art collection by curator Ahmet Albayrak for the event, which runs through Sept. 3 at the Bank of Korea’s Money Museum.

“This exhibition is one of the most outstanding activities that we are organizing within the context of the 2017 Turkey Korea Culture Year here,” said Turkish Ambassador to Korea Arslan Hakan Okcal in a speech at the opening ceremony on July 10.

“The 30 artworks presented are just a small token of the vast collection of the Central Bank of Turkey, the custodian of our rich and diverse artifacts, particularly modern paintings.”

The 60th anniversary marks a milestone in both countries, the envoy added, noting Turkey and Korea have celebrated the occasion from the lunar calendar.

“Our relations actually have a much longer history than our diplomatic ties,” he highlighted, explaining Turks trace their roots to Asia and were neighbors with ancient Koreans in Manchuria, then occupied by peoples of Turkey’s Gokturk and Korea’s Goguryeo kingdoms. “That may be why we both belong to the Ural-Altaic language family and have strikingly similar cultural sensibilities.”

The ancient Turks traversed westward and settled some 1,000 years ago in Anatolia, the land where coins were first minted and used by ancient Lidyans, the ambassador explained. He also said the Turks and Koreans continued to maintain commerce and correspondence through the ancient Silk Road.

The two countries’ ancient ties became even more solid during the 1950-53 Korean War, to which Turkey dispatched 21,212 troops to defend against the North Korean invasion. The Turkish Brigade fought some of the bloodiest battles and lost over 1,000 soldiers, the third-highest casualty rate among participating nations under the United Nations Command.

Turkish soldiers also undertook emergency care and social relief work during the war, and opened the Ankara School for orphans of the conflict, which operated into the late 1960s.

“Our soldiers’ selfless sacrifices and actions forged a special bond between us,” Okcal underscored. “I am very proud that their sacrifices and contributions during and after the war have never been forgotten by the noble Korean people. Today we consider each other ‘brother nations’ as well as ‘blood brothers.’”

In recent years, the bilateral relations have strengthened to a strategic partnership, and diversified over comprehensive areas, according to the diplomat. Turkey and Korea are influential partners in their respective regions and beyond, and closely cooperate through the Group of 20, MIKTA -- a middle power alliance of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia -- and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where their central banks collaborate on diverse economic issues.

As of July 31, the Turkish Embassy will relocate from its current location to a new building at Jung-gu Donghoro 20, Na-gil 40 in Seoul, near the Shilla Hotel.

By Joel Lee ( 

Participants at the opening ceremony of the “Invisible Language” exhibition at the Bank of Korea’s Money Museum on July 10 included Turkish Ambassador to Korea Arslan Hakan Okcal (front, fifth from right), Bank of Korea Gov. Lee Ju-yeol (front, center) and Central Bank of Turkey Deputy Gov. Murat Uysal (front, sixth from right). (Turkish Embassy)