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Argentina’s Korea Expert Returns

Posted February. 24, 2006 03:06,   


The last time history professor Jaime Silbert of Cordoba National University (64, photo) visited Korea was 11 years ago, until his visit this year. Silbert, named the president of Argentina’s Korean Studies Association in 2004, said, “Korea has changed much during that time. Each aspect of Korean people’s lives seems more abundant.”

He majored in East Asian history at Israel’s Hebrew University and attended the graduate school of International Relations at the Sorbonne University in Paris. While he was there, a fellow student obsessed with the “Asian tigers” introduced him to Korea.

“I met my friend Patrick in 1977, and he used to talk to me about the South Korean and Taiwan ‘tigers.’ He also introduced me to the intricate changes that Korean society was undergoing during the 1970s.”

It was then that he began reading books on Korea. He was especially attracted by the process of change from an agricultural to an industrial society under the dictatorship of President Park Jung-hee.

After returning to Argentina in 1984, he obtained a professorship at Cordoba National University. Most Argentineans were unacquainted with Korea at the time. Since the early 1990s, he was assisted by the Korean embassy in Argentina to establish a structured educational program on Korean politics, economy, society, and history. His students are very interested in modern Korean history.

Four of Argentina’s national universities, including Buenos Aires National University and Cordoba National University, have Korean studies programs. At Cordoba National University, 80 students study Korea each year. Other Latin American countries, including Mexico, Venezuela, and Paraguay have also been establishing Korean studies programs.

“There are around 10 Korean restaurants in Cordoba alone. I find Korean cuisine to be quite appetizing. Korea is not an unfamiliar country to Argentines anymore.”

Yi-Young Cho lycho@donga.com