Today, as a Colombian, I am proud to let others know about how the Colombian community unites and expands throughout Korea. Plus, I will share with you the two most important events held to commemorate the relationship between the two countries I call home.
South Korean – Colombian Friendship
The friendly relationship between South Korea and Colombia began with the Korean War. Colombia was the only country in Latin America that sent its troops to support the South. This year, 2022, marks 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations. And, it has been 40 years since the capital cities of both countries, Seoul and Bogota, were declared sister cities.
As a fun fact – Bogotá’s transportation system was designed by Koreans, and Seoul’s bike system was designed, in part by Colombians.
Seoul International Book Fair
This year, Korea was the guest of honor at the International Book Fair in Bogota. And likewise, Colombia was the first Spanish-speaking country in history, to be a guest at the Seoul International Book Fair. There was an entire pavilion dedicated to Colombia.
At the Seoul Book Fair, there was an extensive and very interesting program during the five days that it lasted. The Colombia pavilion received a large number of visitors. There was a good mix of Koreans, who are becoming increasingly interested in Latin America, as well as Colombians and other foreigners.
The Colombian Pavilion hosted a number of programs. One of the highlights was the presentation of the Carnival of Blacks and Whites, (Carnaval de Negros y Blancos). It is a special part of Colombian culture that has been declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The Carnival represents a moment where racial borders do not exist. It is a day when the identities that separate people disappear, different cultures are celebrated, and we all unite as one people.
Of course, another big hit at the bookfair was the coffee. Koreans love Colombian coffee. It has been cataloged countless times as the best coffee in the world. So at the Seoul Book Fair, the famous Juan Valdez Coffee, a representative brand of Colombian coffee, was offered free of charge to assistants.
Another very important export from Colombia to Korea is flowers. According to the Foreign Trade platform of Colombia, Colombian flower exports to South Korea increased by 99.8% between 2015 and 2020. And so, natural flowers brought from Colombia were abundant at the event.
Being a book fair, Colombian books were on full display. Colombia also has several well-known authors. Popular works such as “Cien Años de Soledad”, by the writer Gabriel García Márquez, were sold in their original Spanish versions and Korean-translated versions.
Han River Colombian Friendship Celebration
The second important event was held on the banks of the Han River. First, a group of Colombian graffiti artists unveiled their work. They have created artwork that is on display all over the world. Each of their murals highlights the beauty and culture of Colombia. The Vice Minister of Culture of Korea, the Ambassador of Colombia in Korea, and the Minister of Culture of Colombia all came to the unveiling ceremony. This work is entitled “Colombia Esencial” and it is located in Ttukseom Park. It will be on display for the hundreds of thousands of Seoul citizens who regularly visit there.
The mural unveiling was followed by a concert that both adults and children could enjoy. It featured Julio Victoria, a nationally renowned Colombian musician. Then there were some artistic presentations by Colombians and Koreans alluding to the country of coffee. Yes, Korean artists sang “Colombia Tierra Querida”, one of the most representative songs of that country! Then they danced Salsa caleña, which was created in the Valle del Cauca region!
It was amazing to see one of the most iconic places in Seoul, the Han River, was dressed in Colombian colors.
These two events allowed the Colombian community in Korea to meet once again. We shared our country with other expatriates and danced to the familiar music of a country that is so far away. But overall, it was really nice to feel at home again, even if it was just a few events.
In Colombia, there are also events related to Korea from time to time. So, if you are reading this from my home country and want a little taste of Korea, the best way to stay informed of these events is through social media. You can follow the embassies of both countries on Instagram!
In the future, I hope that Colombia and Korea became even closer thanks to literature and culture.
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