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KOCIS celebrates 40th anniversary with exhibitions, performances

Korea Culture and Information Service director Seo Kang-soo speaks at a press conference Nov. 29, explaining plans for the 40th anniversary of the organization. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Korea Culture and Information Service director Seo Kang-soo speaks at a press conference Nov. 29, explaining plans for the 40th anniversary of the organization. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Over the past four decades, the Korea Culture and Information Service has grown into an organization with 24 overseas offices, promoting the nation’s culture and image all over the world.

The state-run organization held a festival on Monday to celebrate its 40th anniversary, entertaining some 400 guests from in and out of the country with photographs of Korea’s past and present, performances by K-pop stars and Korean modern dancers, and a fashion show of Korea’s traditional hanbok.

The Monday’s festival, attended by government officials, cultural leaders, scholars, foreign dignitaries and correspondents in Korea, began with an exhibition displaying some 80 photographs and documents that capture Korea and its culture from the 1970s through today.

Followed by opening and congratulatory speeches by KOCIS director Seo Kang-soo and Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik, respectively, plaques of appreciation were given to people noted for their roles in promoting Korean culture.

Among the recipients were former minister Yoon Chu-young, who founded the KOCIS, Donald Kirk, correspondent of CBS radio news in Seoul who has been reporting from Korea since the middle of the 1970s, Elizabeth Kraft, who has worked as a KOCIS consultant and editor of English publications for the past 35 years, and Han Young-seok, who has served as the parcel and mailman of KOCIS for decades.

The festival also featured a fashion show of Korean traditional costume hanbok by world-leading designer Lee Young-hee.

Students at the Korean National University of Arts staged a special dance performance using Korean fabrics, while popular K-pop band F(x) entertained guests with their most-popular songs.

The dinner, meanwhile, was presented the traditional Korean way, prepared by Institute of Korean Traditional Food chief Yoon Sook-ja.

With the slogan “Reaching out constantly, resounding globally,” KOCIS wrapped up the festival Monday, promising to concentrate more on soft power and the younger generation as it starts off a new decade of cultural promotion activities.

The organization has also published a book to commemorate its decades-long history.

The 217-page book, divided into three parts, introduces the organization’s 1971-2011 activities through media reports and columns and carries photographs of Korea’s former presidents, political and cultural leaders and old documents.

The third part carries essays by the former and incumbent officials of KOCIS, who share their experiences during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup as well as years of turbulence after the Korean War.

Inaugurated as the Overseas Information Center under the Culture Ministry in 1971, KOCIS in its early years focused on carrying out propaganda activities after the 1950-53 Korean War.

Following the democratization movements in the 1980s, the organization began to focus more on cultural promotion activities. It was given its current name in 2008.

The role of KOCIS has become more important in recent years as the popularity of Korean pop-culture, also known as hallyu, has been spreading throughout the world.

With a growing number of people becoming interested in Korea, KOCIS has been increasing the number of cultural centers abroad, which offer visitors information on Korea as well as Korean language lessons.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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