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[Diplomatic News] “Is It a Dream to Build a Korean Garden at Université Paris 7?”

[Diplomatic News] “Is It a Dream to Build a Korean Garden at Université Paris 7?”

Posted August. 05, 2005 04:58,   


Professor Frost (53) teaches Korean and Korean culture to French students majoring in Korean Studies at Université Paris 7 and always feels sorry about the reality that surrounds her. Last year, the number of entrants to the university for Japanese and Chinese studies was 200, while that for Korean studies was only 50. Even though half of the applicants for Japanese and Chinese studies were admitted, the number still was higher.

Professor Frost is eager at least to maintain the status quo, let along improve it. When she has extra time besides lecturing and researching, she spends all of her time sending letters to the authorities of France and Korea asking for help from officials.

Professor Frost recently made a great achievement. Université Paris 7 secured space to decorate a “Korean Garden” on the new campus it plans to move to next spring. “On the fourth floor where the department of Oriental studies is to be, we have been given 50 pyeong of space,” she said. After she kept asking the head of the department, she was finally allowed to decorate the space as a Korean garden, not a Chinese or Japanese one.

Professor Frost asked a Korean architect, Shin Yong-hak, working in Paris to draw up a design for it, but there was an obstacle to securing budget money for the plan. The school said the space could be provided, but that it could not provide funding for it. She then wrote letters to Korea’s related foundations, and companies for help. However, all the answers she received said no, and in some cases, there was no reply at all.

She gave a sigh, saying, “We reduced the budget to 500,000 euros (about 600 million won), but it is still not easy.” If the plan to build a “Korean Garden” is cancelled, the chance would go to China right away,” Frost said. “As the 2002 World Cup games neared, the Korean government used to hold large-scale events related to Korea in Paris,” adding, “Even a small number of such events would help promote Korea, including building a space for the Korean garden. I am sorry Korea does not have that kind of long-term perspective.”

“I look French, but I am Korean,” said Professor Frost, whose efforts to preserve Korea within France may have outrun those of any Koreans. A closer look reveals why he has such special sentiments toward Korea.

After majoring in English and Japanese at Université Paris 7, she visited Korea for the first time in 1976 while she was studying at Tokyo University. She re-visited Korea in 1979 and applied to Seoul National University for a doctoral degree.

Later, she became a professor of French literature at Yonsei University. It was then when she met a senior Physical Education major who was then a national tennis player, and fell in love with him. She waited until he served his military service and got married to him in 1983. Later, she was appointed professor at Université Paris 7 and returned to France.

From 1992 to 1996, her relations with Korea continued as she was specially recruited as a cultural policy officer to the French Embassy in Korea. Her husband, Lee Seung-geun (48), is currently an executive director for Neovia, a company that manufactures flat TV screens and monitors. It is the only Korean company listed on the French Stock Exchange.

Dong-Keun Keum gold@donga.com