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Sharing the beauty of Korea with the world : International visitors get a taste of local arts and design with CICI

Aug 31,2017
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Left: The seven invited cultural leaders and Choi Jung-hwa, president of CICI, second from left, pose at Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul on the first day of the 8th Culture Communication Forum. Right: the honored guests of CCF Night 2017, including photographer Bae Bien-u, third from left, and former Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, front row, center, pose for a photo on the second day of CCF at the Grand Hyatt in central Seoul. [CICI]
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Regardless of the worldwide geopolitical tensions caused by North Korea’s missile threats, the Corea Image Communication Institution’s (CICI) efforts to promote Korea and its culture across the globe remain unstirred.

CICI, a nonprofit that promotes Korean culture overseas, annually hosts the Culture Communication Forum (CCF), where leading cultural figures from the Group of 20 nations are invited to Korea for cultural experiences and to discuss a chosen topic. The hope is that the visitors will promote Korean culture abroad when they return home.

This year’s two-day CCF wrapped on Tuesday. Unlike the past seven years, in which the invited cultural leaders spent a day holding discussions, CCF took a different approach during this year’s event. Instead of a discussion, the event exhibited work from “Korea Through the Lens,” a video and photography competition in which contestants from both inside and outside of Korea submitted work highlighting Korea.

The motivation behind the change was the President of CICI Choi Jung-hwa’s special interest in the number seven.

“Seven is a very meaningful number to me, so I wanted to make a change and try something new after holding CCF in the same format for the past seven years. In tune with the times, I decided to focus on ‘visual mobile,’ which explains the reason why the Grand Award was given to a video,” Choi told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Seven cultural leaders from different countries were invited for this year’s forum. They were French politician Jean-Vincent Place; BBC Journalist Francine Stock, photographer Tino Soriano from Spain; art photographers Caroline and Hughes Dubois from Belgium; WBZ Radio anchor and reporter Rod Fritz from the United States; and Miriam Sun, co-founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, from China.

On the first day of the event, those in attendance toured around Seoul and experienced both traditional and contemporary culture hands-on by visiting numerous cultural attractions, ranging from the Korea Furniture Museum and Jogye Temple to the Hyundai Card Music Library and Gyeongbok Palace, where they enjoyed the night view. The attendees were also able to enjoy Korean cuisine at some of the finest restaurants in Seoul like Congdu and Poom Seoul.

“My impression of Korea was that traditional values and modernity coexist, which is a major strength of the country,” French politician and Korean adoptee Place told local reporters Tuesday morning. Place added that Korean music, films and cuisine have become increasingly popular in France while BBC journalist Stock pointed out how “green the city is” surrounded by mountains, a pleasant surprise coming from a country with very “high technology.”

Photographer Hughes Dubois also told reporters that he was able to form a new impression of Korea through the visit. Before, Korea was “a very distant country and all I knew about the country was that it is situated between China and Japan.” But some aspects of Korea including the country’s “calmness and silence” yet “strong energy” seized his heart.

The second day was the highlight of the forum, as the attendees and cultural leaders of Korea, including Roh Tae-gang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and photographer Bae Bien-u, gathered for CCF Night 2017 at the Grand Hyatt in central Seoul.

At CCF Night 2017, the invited cultural leaders briefly shared their thoughts on Korea based on their short stay in Seoul.

Hughes Dubois spoke of how surprised he was to see curves throughout Korean culture and design such as the curves found in Korean letters and in buildings like Incheon International Airport and a temple in Seoul.

Other events included the award ceremony for the “Korea Through the Lens” contest prize winners and a performance from Blackstring, who played a combination of jazz and gugak, Korean traditional music.

The Grand Award for the contest was given to calligrapher Kang Byung-in and photographer Lim Chae-wook, who entered the competition with a video “Beautiful Korean and Hangeul,” which conveys the beauty of Korea through the beauty of hangul, the Korean alphabet, and the scenic splendors of Korea.

“An Ode to Korea” by Erwan Vilfeu, the CEO of Nestle Korea, and “Travel Diary, South Korea 2017” by Swiss student Elodie Bouladon were given Videos Excellence Awards.

In the photography category, “Nature” by Latvian Ambassador Peteris Vaivars, and “Marriage in Korea” by Curt Olson, former CEO of ING Life Korea, were given Photos Excellence Awards. Bae Bien-u was the head judge of the contest.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]