Cultural Exchange Key To Enhance Ties

Arun Ranjit



Asia is home to diverse ethnic groups, languages and cultures. Every country has its own culture and it is followed and observed in its own way. To experience another country’s culture can be exciting. Moreover, it would be worthwhile if it could be made known to the world at large through publicity.

This scribe has experienced various aspects of Korean culture time and again. Traditionally Korea was called “The Hermit Kingdom” but that is no longer true. Today, Korea is a vibrant, dynamic country bustling with many tourists, businessmen and scholars -- a nation full of energy and resilience that has undergone extraordinarily rapid transformation from a distraught post-war agrarian society into one of the world’s highly industrialized countries. Koreas term this change as “Miracle on Hang River”.

Korea is a land of contrasts in which the old and the new, beauty and vitality, stubbornness and flexibility bafflingly and yet harmoniously co-exist.

Historically, Korea was said to be a “Country of courteous people in the East” due to the Koreans’ traditional esteem for decorum, courtesy and propriety, according to Professor Dr. Seong-Kon Kim of Seoul National University.arun

It is certainly true today as Koreans are known to be very polite and friendly, and their hospitality is internationally acclaimed. Thus, during a visit to a Korean family anyone will be surprised to find how kind and polite they are, and how warmly and wholeheartedly they receive and entertain the guest.

Koreans can quickly become close friends when they find out that they share something in common. It is the sense of being ‘one of us’ which plays an important role in developing human relations in Korea.

Koreans frequently use the word “we” when they should say “I”. They prefer to say “our country” instead of “my country” and “our house” instead of “my house”. So don’t be embarrassed when a Korean friend introduces his wife saying, ‘This is our wife”.

Though Korea is largely Westernized, seniority is still widely respected throughout the country.

During the working week Koreans tend to dress in formal Western-style clothes; it is almost impossible to imagine an office worker wearing a T-shirt or blue jeans in Korea. Unlike the Japanese or the Chinese who bow deeply and frequently, Koreans bow only once and slightly.

Koreans never refer to someone as a “friend” unless they know the person quite well. In Korea, “friend” means a “close friend”. Thus, a Korean has only a handful of friends during his life, whereas Westerners may have many friends. Koreans do not make friends easily but once they become friends, their friendship lasts.

Drinking in Korea is a “national pastime”. Drinking is very popular and has always played an important part in Korean life. Joining a drinking party literally means “social life” in Korea. Singing is another great Korean preoccupation -- especially when a group is together in a bar; to ask someone to sing is almost essential etiquette.

In Korean eyes, the Western custom of ‘eating together and paying separately’ is disturbing and perplexing, like the riddle of the Sphinx.

All countries have various taboos and Korea is not an exception. For instance, Koreans tend to avoid the number 4 (sa) since it has the same pronunciation as the word for death. Thus, many Korean buildings (especially hospitals) leave out the fourth floor.

Gift giving is almost a ritual in Korea. People exchange gifts on various occasions. When presenting a gift, Koreans have a tendency to belittle it, saying, “This is nothing very much, really”.

Korea is a country of contrast and contradiction where past and present, tradition and innovation, indifference and attentiveness co-exist. Koreans seem to embrace the contradiction positively and harmoniously, and by so going ultimately choose the way of reconciliation rather than dissension and alienation.

Korean art and culture are dramatic, full of energy, and very expressive, and can be seen as springing from the nature of the land itself.

Korean music is very special. In modern days, K-pop (an abbreviation of Korean pop or Korean popular music) is a musical genre consisting of electronic, hip hop, pop, rock, jazz, reggae, nu metal folk and R&B as Western pop music as well as country and classical on top of its traditional Korean music originating in South Korea. K-pop is a cultural product that features “values, identity and meanings that go beyond their commerciality.” It is characterized by a mixture of Western sounds with an Asian aspect of performance. It has been remarked that there is a “vision of modernization” inherent in Korean pop culture.

First, K-pop entered the Japanese market at the turn of the 21st century and rapidly grew into a sub-culture among teenagers and young adults of East and Southeast Asia. Due to its popularity with the advent of online social networking services the current global spread of K-pop and Korean entertainment known as the Korean Wave is seen in Nepal too along with other South Asian countries, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in the Western world.

Many K-pop stars such as Psy, Big Bang, 2NE1 and others have come together to help Nepal School Project. The artists brought CDs and signed T-shirts to donate and became ‘donation mentors’ for the Nepal School Project.

The K-pop World Festival is an annual event organized by the Government of South Korea. This year also the South Korean Embassy in Kathmandu is organizing Korean Culture Day tomorrow (Saturday) in the capital with colourful activities including food festival and K-pop.

To truly get to know a country, consumption of traditional food and participation in some sort of traditional event is a must.

However, food is easy to get but traditional performances are not as easily accessible. Their timing and location have to be just right. So, the Korean Culture Day could be the right time for those who have not been to Korea yet.

As culture is an integral part of promoting peace and friendship among the people and countries, cross-cultural activities need to be broadened. In this respect, exchange of cultural events between Nepal and South Korea would definitely help to advance friendship and goodwill at the people’s level.

Nepal’s nature, adventure and culture including heritage are also very ancient and rich. Thus, learning from these international experiences, Nepalese too should work for the preservation and promotion of the age-old culture to prove how Nepal’s culture is distinctive and diverse vis-à-vis the cultures of other Asian and Western countries.

Thus, this kind of cultural exchange activities will certainly be meaningful as they provide room for an opportunity to confirm that Nepal and South Korea’s friendly relations will be further strengthened in the days ahead.




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