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Embassies endorse Spanish education

The embassies of Spanish-speaking countries hosted a Spanish Day celebration Saturday to promote their language and cultures in Korea.

Sixteen diplomatic missions helped organize the event with Cervantes Institute and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. The participating embassies were Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominica Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain and Venezuela.

“In a world where more than 6,000 languages are spoken, it is a source of great pride for Spanish speakers to know that Spanish is the second most spoken language worldwide after Chinese,” Colombian Ambassador to Korea Tito Saul Pinilla said in a speech. “Spanish-speaking countries celebrate this day to promote our language and remember our common cultural links that unite us in diversity.”

There are some 567 million people around the globe who speak Spanish, either as a mother tongue or second language. Twenty-two countries use it as their official language.

Ambassadors and diplomats of Spanish-speaking countries pose at the Spanish Day festival at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul on Saturday. (Ecuadorian Embassy)
Ambassadors and diplomats of Spanish-speaking countries pose at the Spanish Day festival at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul on Saturday. (Ecuadorian Embassy)

Each embassy introduced a symbolic and widely used Spanish word in the country, and the Cervantes Institute offered seven raffle prizes for opportunities to study the language at the institute. A salsa dance workshop and storytelling activities followed.

“Entrepreneurs worldwide are learning Spanish to expand their business to the Latin American market,” Ecuadorian Ambassador Oscar Herrera Gilbert told The Korea Herald. “Compared to other Spanish varieties, the Ecuadorian Spanish has a neutral accent and is easily understood by nonnative speakers.”

Ecuador has produced many famous writers and thinkers, including Juan Montalvo, Juan Leon Mera, Luis A. Martinez, Enrique Gil Gilbert, Demetrio Aguilera Malta, Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco and Jose de al Cuadra, among others, according to the envoy.

But their works are not well known outside Ecuador due to a lack of translation, he said. He added that the embassy has promoted Ecuadorian literature and cinema in Korea through a Latin American film festival and World Cinema Week, where “Pescador,” or “Fisherman,” directed by filmmaker and screenwriter Sebastian Cordero was showcased.

The embassy also featured several national fairy tales -- including works by Veronica Bonilla -- at the “Encounter the World Through Children’s Books” book fair organized by the Korea Foundation.

There have been increasing commercial, social and educational exchanges between Ecuador and Korea, Herrera said, adding the prospective Strategic Economic Cooperation Agreement is currently in negotiations. As SECA focuses on trade, investment and transfer of knowledge and technology, mastering Spanish could prove useful to Korean workers, he said.

Similar to the popularity of Spanish in Korea, the Korean language and culture, encompassing cinema, food, fashion and beauty products, are becoming fashionable all across Latin America, including Ecuador, the ambassador said. There are 17 K-pop fan clubs in Ecuador, and the Korean Embassy in the country annually organizes the K-pop World Festival in Quito and Guayaquil.

By Joel Lee (