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PM Pledges Funds for Garden in Paris

Posted June. 16, 2006 03:08,   


Professor Martine Prost, who is in charge of the Korean Studies of University Paris 7, is all happy these days.

It is because a Korean garden will be built on the new campus. Korean Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, who visited the new campus of the university last week, promised support of 50,000 Euros needed to build the garden.

Professor Prost said that she felt like she finally did a longstanding homework. It was three years ago that she proposed an idea of building a Korean garden on the fifth floor of the new building for the Asian Department and gained the support of the whole department. Soon the blueprint was drawn, but the question was how to finance it.

Then the unyielding effort of professor Prost began. At first, she asked the Korea Foundation for funding only to be rejected. The foundation said, “We can support academic activities but not building a garden.” She sent letters to large corporations including Samsung and LG and some politicians she knew but failed to gain support. Earlier this year, she went as far as to send a letter to Cheong Wa Dae. But the letter was not answered.

At last, hopeful signs emerged in early March when Hwang Seok-yeong, a Korean writer staying in Paris told her after his visit to Korea, “I asked Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and I think we will receive a positive response.” However, only a few days later, Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan resigned.

In mid May when she was near giving up, she was told by the Korean ambassador to France, Ju Chul–ki, that he had very good feeling about the funding of the garden. And last week Prime Minister Han promised to support the financing.

A source from the embassy said, “It is not a matter of just building a Korean garden. It is a matter of Korea’s international status.” University of Paris 7 is the first European university that opened courses for Korean studies. Recently, Korean studies are losing ground to Chinese and Japanese studies in Europe.

Professor Prost said, “If things continue like this, some day Korean studies may disappear in University of Paris 7. But if there is a garden supported by Korea, that will not happen.” The Korea Foundation, which initially rejected the financing request, is reported to have changed its decision, agreeing with her rationale.

Professor Prost also succeeded in moving the Korean study institute from a corner of the fifth floor to a better place which is near the Korean garden.

Professor Prost expressed her gratitude to the ambassador who helped her, sending letters to various figures from the beginning. Moreover, she extended her thanks to Dong-A Ilbo, which first reported on the issue of Korean garden last August, and the alumni community of Ahyun elementary school, which recently established a supporters’ association for the garden.