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South Korea And France Celebrate 130 Years Of Friendship

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South Korea, France celebrate 130-year friendship

The “Year of France in Korea” kicked off on March 23 in Seoul, aimed at being a retrospect over the past 130 years of friendship between Seoul and Paris.

Held as part of the “Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges” and in commemoration of the 130th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the festival continues until the end of year.

The “Year of Korea in France,” meanwhile, has already been underway in Paris since September last year, running until August this year.


Representatives from the Korean and French governments pose for a commemorative photo during the opening ceremony of the ‘Year of France in Korea’ on March 23.


Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism Kim Jongdeok (right) gives his speech before the opening performance of ‘The Age of Time’ at the National Theater. Standing next to the culture minister is French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The opening ceremony took place at the Shilla Hotel in central Seoul and welcomed about 200 representatives from the Korean and French governments. Among those in attendance were Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jongdeok, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se and his French counterpart, Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“This festival features a wide set of events that aim to demonstrate innovation and creativity from each of us, all made with collaboration between both countries,” said Henri Loyrette, French chairman from the organizing committee for the Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges. “The aim is to show how close both countries are, and it will be shown with creativity and the historical value embedded in these events that we’ve prepared,” he added.


French Chairman Henri Loyrette of the organizing committee for the Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges speaks during the opening ceremony of the Year of France in Korea on March 23 in Seoul.


Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se (left) toasts his French counterpart Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault as they celebrate the opening of the Year of France in Korea.

The Korea-France joint production of a performance called “The Age of Time” was staged to mark the opening of the festival. It was directed by Jose Montalvo, a French choreographer working at the Chaillot National Theater. A team of 24 dancers from the National Dance Company of Korea brought Montalvo’s choreography to life on the stage.

Prior to the premiere, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jongdeok delivered his congratulatory speech, saying that, “This is a chance to bring together the arts of the East and West.” The minister continued to say that, “The real goal for the Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges is to share our different traditions, arts and performances with each other, and to learn things admirable from these different values. This close friendship will hopefully be taken to a new level over the next 100 years, after these 130 years.”

In response, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “One aspect that the peoples of both countries have in common is that they know how to enjoy music, dancing and other forms of art. Through this festival, I hope they will feel closer to each other, sharing their traditions and art.” The French minister went on to say that, “My hope is to see this sound friendship, a friendship that started with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation 130 years ago, in 1886, continue into the future.”


Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jongdeok (third from right, front), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (forth from right, front) and French choreographer Jose Montalvo (second from left, front) and other dancers pose for a group photo.

Meanwhile, at Gwanghwamun Square people will be able to sample some French cuisine at an open-air tasting on March 25 and 26. The So French Delices Street Food Festival will be held as part of the Year of France in Korea. It will showcase a variety of French foods, such as croquet-monsieur, omelets and Alsatian salad. These dishes will be made by Guillaume Gomez, head chef at France’s Elysee Palace, as well as other renowned French chefs. These cooks will make fusion cuisine for fair-goers, too, for example, by putting grilled bulgogi, marinated beef, in a loaf of French brioche pastry.


Korean and French chefs welcome visitors to the opening ceremony of the Year of France in Korea with a variety of French food on which they worked together.


Lionel Choukroun (second from right), head of the So French Delices, a French civic organization promoting French cuisine overseas, explains the So French Delices Street Food Festival scheduled to take place at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. On his right is Guillaume Gomez (right), head chef at France’s Elysee Palace.

“Some French traditional dishes will be served on traditional Korean porcelain, which is so meaningful. You can also taste French cuisine mixed with Korean cuisine,” said Guillaume Gomez. “This is how food creates harmony and unity between two nations,” the chef added.

There is even more to enjoy. The Seoul Museum of History will host the Seoul, Post-Modernity exhibition which spotlights works of art captured by French photographer Francoise Huguier. The show runs until May 29. The Dangdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) will bring to light an oeuvre of fashion works by French designer Jean Paul Gaultier. About 350 more events are on the way, too, focusing on French art and traditions.

“This will be the largest and longest festival that touches upon more things than ever before about French culture,” said Director Park Younggoog of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS). “This means that the two countries look at each other in a whole new way and are bringing to a whole new level their efforts to reinterpret their different cultures, and to work together to mingle some of the elements with each other,” he added.



French chefs make finger food out of traditional French cuisine, to be served at the opening ceremony of the Year of France in Korea.


{Source: The Government of the Republic of Korea – By Sohn JiAe – Staff Writer}

[Photo credits-featured image: Sungnyemun or Namdaemun is a historic gate located in the heart of Seoul. The landmark is officially called Sungnyemun (Hangul: 숭례문; Hanja: 崇禮門; literally “Gate of Respecting Propriety”). – By by lwy –, CC BY 2.0,]

[Intext photos: By Jeon Han]


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