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[Opinion] National Guests and Gifts

Posted December. 03, 2004 23:09,   


Summit meetings are the essence of diplomacy. The executives of both nations meet prior to the event and carefully discuss not only the summit’s procedures and choice of words, but also the leader’s traffic line. Equally important to the substance of the summit are its form and ceremony. Because of this, there should be thorough tuning not only of lodgings, meals, escorts, function halls, and visiting places, but also the choice of gifts and the entourage. This is where a nation’s insight, dignity, diplomacy and cultural capability become evident.

President Roh Moo-hyun was the first Korean national leader to make a state visit to Great Britain. As I watched the Korean president inspect the Royal Guards with Queen Elizabeth II and enter Buckingham Palace in the royal carriage under the escort of the Royal Horse Guards, I felt proud as if the whole nation was receiving such a treatment. Former President Bill Clinton, who had studied in Great Britain, was not able to receive the cordial reception of a state visit despite the strong recommendation of Prime Minister Tony Blair because of his scandal with Monica Lewinsky.

After the state banquet, President Roh drank tea and exchanged talks with Queen Elizabeth for about 30 minutes and presented the queen a DVD containing four Korean movies, including “Chihwaseon,” “Peppermint Candy,” “Green Fish,” and “Oasis.” It was an “outstanding choice,” containing self-esteem toward Korean movies protecting our cultural pride in the face of Hollywood movies. It is comparable to the cultural diplomacy of the French President Francois Mitterand, who visited Korea in 1993 with several famous French cultural icons such as Sophie Marceau in order to fulfill the TGV contract.

However, I have doubts on the choice of work. I am not trying to criticize the fact that three of the movies, with the exception of director Im Kwon-taek’s “Chihwaseon,” are the works of Lee Chang-dong, who had been minister of Culture and Tourism during the current administration. It is true that all three are highly acclaimed works, having received prizes in international film festivals. I am only concerned that these movies portrayed the reality of Korea with a one-sided view through neglected and hurt characters. The queen enjoyed the dignity and fragrance of the high-class culture of Korea when she went to Insa-dong and Hahoe Folk Village during her 1999 state visit to Korea. I am sure there are many comfortable and heartwarming movies for the queen….

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com