A piece of South Korea

Mar Chamorro and Enma Viera in the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid

For the study of one region of the world I preferred to focus on Asia, Australia and Oceania because I considered that nowadays the economic, political and military importance of this region have increased, opening up a range of possibilities in the near future. For this reason I decided to concentrate the interview especially on South Korea.

I had the pleasure to meet Mar Chamorro, the press representative of the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid. Not only she gladly accepted to have her do an interview but she also showed me around the different facilities of the modern Center. The interview focused on the cultural relations of Spain and South Korea and the role of the Center in them.

First of all, it is important to mention that the Cultural Center is established and regulated by the Republic of Korea’s Government and have for its objective the increase of cultural bonds between the two countries.

When asked about this, the interviewee highlighted that the different activities that take place in order to stimulate the cultural relations between the two countries and its citizens are  the offer of courses and workshops of Korean food (hansik), traditional music (gukak), Korean painting (hanguk-hwa), Korean paper (hanji), Korean pop (k-pop) and Korean language (hangul), among others such as the projections of Korean movies and the celebration of an annual “Muestra de Cine Coreano” (35mm) in collaboration with the “Filmoteca Española”.

She also suggested the diverse and temporary projects that will take place this year apart from the courses and workshops that are offered.  Some of the events that have been prepared are exhibitions of Korean and Spanish artists, “la Noche de los Libros”, concerts of Korean music, a K-pop contest, a literary forum, or the concert of the “Grupo Vocal Millennium”. In addition to these events, the Center will collaborate with “Casa Asia” in ARCO and in the “Festival Asia” among others.

The Korean Cultural Center is making a great effort to make the Spanish society get to know the culture of South Korea. As Mar Chamorro said, “Spaniards know Korea superficially”, so to get to know this society she points out the fact that Korea has always maintain its traditional culture but because of the economic development based of exportation and exchange with the whole world the last 50 years, it has provoked a transformation in the Korean society, making it more dynamic and open.  Mar Chamorro defines the Korean society as open, dynamic and as very kind people.

Spain and South Korean share, in her opinion, lots of things in common. Both countries are peninsulas and its people are very passionate. They share a vision of peace and international security, probably because of their membership in international organizations that have for objective this goal.

These common things makes the Spanish and South Korean relations strengthen day by day and this can be seen in the increase of the amount of Spanish visitors that travel to South Korea this past three years. Mar Chamorro thinks that the interest of the Spanish society has risen gradually, and for this reason, a direct flight stands between Madrid and Seoul with Korean Airlines.

The interviewee considers that Spain is not only known in this Asian country for its football teams or its tourism. The Korean society knows different aspects of Spain because of the promotion that takes place in South Korea, such as “el Camino de Santiago” or Gaudi’s architecture. Besides this, the Korean government considers that Spain is a very important country in order to connect Korea and South America because it serves as a bridge to strengthen cultural ties with the South American countries. This is the reason why South Korea decided to stablish the Korean Cultural Center in Madrid in 2011, becoming one of the 24 Cultural Centers that have been opened in the world.

In order to finish the interview, I could not let go the opportunity to ask Mar Chamorro about what advice she could give to International Relations students that soon will finish their studies and will enter the “real world”. She considered that it is very important to have the experience of traveling to other countries and living in them to have a different vision on how the world functions. For her point of view, it is vital to go in depth into the culture of the country that you moved into in order to open your mind. This, she says, will help us greatly.

As a nice way to finish our meeting, she nicely offered to show me the various rooms of the Center, from the amazing exhibition of traditional Korean items brought directly from South Korea, to the great collection of books in both languages, Spanish and Korean, for all ages and interests.

Tourist guides and a book that Mar Chamorro gave to me after the interview

It was a fantastic experience!

INTERVIEW WITH PING SHIH HU SUN, MANDARIN TEACHER AT UEM

I was one of the five students who were assigned Asia as a region to focus on for the International Observatory class and we were told to interview somebody who is related to that region. So I thought that there was no better person to interview than my Mandarin teacher at the Universidad Europea de Madrid, with who I have had the privilege of learning such a difficult yet wonderful language during the second trimester. Her name is Ping Shih Hu Sun and she was born in Taiwan.

I asked her ten general questions about various different topics regarding the region, focusing mainly on China, but also looking at events that have had an effect on China and vice versa.

I am very interested in the whole story about the crisis of the two Koreas, especially the North. Therefore, as an opening question, we can say I was “forced” to ask her about the relationship that exists between China and North Korea.

She said “I think that since they are neighbors, China wants to avoid divergences with North Korea, also because they share a similar political system, Communism, and there aren’t many other Communist states nowadays, so it is important to keep a relationship with them.”

I then continued with a question related to Taiwan, I asked her about the movement that has been going on for years about the complete sovereignty and independence and of Taiwan from China. It is always interesting to hear a personal opinion from somebody who is actually from there.

She said “As a matter of fact, politically and economically Taiwan is totally independent, but I don’t think that Taiwan is capable nor should become a completely independent country because it has been part of Chinese territory for five centuries and due to extraordinary circumstances it finds itself in such situation. No one will ever recognize them as an independent territory and state”.

That question led me to ask her about the Chinese community abroad, specifically in Spain, I was aware of the fact that she was born in Taiwan but I thought that since they are related she could give me an interesting answer, and she did.

She said that “The Chinese community in Spain is like most of the Chinese people, confident about the idea that putting effort into things will lead people to achieve what they aspire.” I immediately agreed with that inspiring statement, because every Chinese person that I know is a very hardworking person.

Manny Ping

After that, I asked her a question that would have taken her ages to answer since it was such an open question therefore she replied in a brief sentence, which made total sense to me. I asked her about some similarities and differences between China and Spain and she replied “Both countries are very hospitable, and are friends of their friends; generally speaking the people are very sociable”.

I then though it was time to move on to talk about more serious issues, so I went back to the North Korea topic, I asked her about the public opinion of the Chinese population about North Korea and its actions whether they support it or oppose it, or whether they just follow what the government says. She gave me a wise answer: “I believe that the people neither support nor oppose the North Korean regime, because the Chinese know that they have their own problems to take care of, they don’t want to pay attention to external problems”.

The next question was along the lines of the previous one. I was skeptical when thinking about asking this question because it involved a very personal answer which many people refuse to give. I asked Ping if she thought that the Chinese regime was too oppressive or if it was improving in terms of democracy, and she said “China is a Communist country, but in some aspects it is improving. However you cannot ask such a big country to make such a drastic change, which would cause chaos like it happened in Russia. China has to make slow progress and the population has to comprehend the real meaning of democracy”.

It seems that the debate about the Tibetan sovereignty has lost media attention years ago, so I thought that it would be interesting to bring it up in my interview, so I asked Ping about her personal opinion on the matter.

She replied by saying that “Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China since many centuries ago. Nevertheless, the international media tends to twist the truth and misreport the facts. I that think what really matters at the end of the day is what the Tibetans want”.

It seems by the type of questions that I am asking her that I am criticizing China by focusing on the saddest happenings, but the fact of the matter is that I love China, its history, culture, language and people. I just focused on those topics because they have created heated debates for years. So, to continue I asked her about the freedom of the press in China. She thinks that “in today’s political system in China, the press does not have total freedom. Freedom is conceded depending on the topic, those topics which are critical about the regime are promptly censured, but those which aren’t are disclosed normally”.

The last two questions could not have been left aside. I had to talk about the economy, so I asked Ping whether this boost of the economy is the right path for China or if it would be better if they slowed down a little, thus respecting some human rights that some workers had had consequently violated due to that boost.

She said that “human rights of the workers are achievements that characterize developed countries. In a society like the Chinese one the rural population moves to the cities looking for jobs wherever employment is offered, so this is the result when there is more demand than supply. The governments may set the rules, but in the end it the companies who really decide”.

I saved the following questions for the end because it is a question that a lot of people ask themselves. I have to say… I did not expect that answer at all, but I have learned to respect all opinions. I asked Ping whether she thought there would be more competition or cooperation between China and the West, especially the United States.

She firmly said “I supposed there will be more competition with the United States because the Americans don’t want China to be on their level, and will make up stories to show that China is not trustworthy.

I enjoyed this interview with Ping, it was nice to know her opinion on these topics of such importance at the international level.

By Emanuele del Tufo

Latest news from North Korea – New opening

Date: March 22, 2012

By: Ananda Cerdan,Ibón Joung, Sara Setién, Eduardo Márquez and Virginia Mazón

   US said, “Last month, North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear and long-range missiles and to allow UN inspectors”

“UN nuclear inspectors were invited to North Korea for the first time in three years”
 

  North Korea abort nuclear development and long-range missile tests in return for food help and with it the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is free to visit North Korean´s nuclear facilities after North Korea had expels last inspectors that were studying the nuclear program of Asian countries three years ago.

   Due to North Korean populations poverty since the soviet communism failed, the country has not been able to supply enough food among its territory. North Korea has been asking for alimentary help, and it is after Kim Jong-Il’s death when his son Kim Jong-un invited UN nuclear inspectors to visit the nuclear facilities for the first time in three years, according a deal with the United States. This deal consists of North Korea aborting nuclear developments in return for alimentary support; but weeks after, the agreement was questioned because the city of Pyongyang announced plans to launch a long-range missile. This act was considered a provocative action for South Korea, Japan and United States, that’s why the reconsider alimentary help because any launch would be seeing as a violation to the UN Security Council Resolutions.

“North Korea opens the doors of them nuclear facilities to the United Nations”
 

   The excuse of North Korea was to celebrate the centenary of the last leader Kim Il-sung, so they claim the right to launch a rocket, between the 12 and the 16 April, which will transport a satellite that could observe the space.

   Last North Korea news by KCNA says that South Korea, United States and Japan have considered the North Korean launch as a provocative action just to manifest against its regime.

   This isn´t the first time that North Korea has problems with the international community since North Korea launched in April 2009, the Taepodong-2 rocket with a communications satellite called Kwangmyongsong-2, which went into orbit by the North Korean government, although the intelligence services in South Korea and the U.S. assure that fell into the sea without reaching its goal. The launch of the Taepodong-2 rocket North Korea earned the condemnation from the international community, who played it was a covert test long-range ballistic missile.

   The UN issued at that time a presidential statement that saw the release a violation of resolution 1718 of the Security Council, which restricts the testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear communist country, but failed to enact sanctions for lack of agreement.

“Decisions still on”
 

   This deal will also open new inspections of North Korean´s nuclear program that started three years ago and from that had been unmonitored. This program asks to leave and restart atomic activities.

To conclude, we should remark that the US, Japan, Britain and other countries have urged North Korea to stop the launch because it´s seen as a threat to diplomatic efforts and a warming that would violate a UN ban.

 
 

Some links related:

UN nuclear watchdog invited to visit North Korea BBC News

Corea del Norte abre las puertas de sus instalaciones nucleares a la ONU El Mundo News

Libya conflict hits the economy in the Pacific zone with the Black gold

As violence continues to escalate in Lybia, the federal government is drawing up plans to evacuate Australians as Libyan representatives sever ties with Gaddafi’s regime. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the estimated 105 Australians believed to be in the North African country should get out, even the UK had offered to help evacuate Australians if necessary. “Australians are advised to avoid all travel to Libya because of the volatile and uncertain security situation,” DFAT said.

Australia is preparing for the potential defection of key diplomats from the Libyan embassy after a senior official walked away from the Gaddafi regime, declaring he now represented “the Libyan people”.

Libya’s cultural counselor signaled the nation might be on the verge of its first diplomatic defection in almost six years.

Economics

Oil prices soared above $93 a barrel in Asia as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s grip on power in the OPEC nation weakened amid violent protests calling for his resignation. Benchmark crude for March delivery was up $7.34 at $93.54 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Analysts are also worried the jump in energy costs could hurt consumer spending and stymie a fragile recovery in developed countries. The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa – which has brought down governments in Tunisia and Egypt and sparked protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, Morocco and Jordan – has added about $10 to the price of crude, according to Capita Economics.

Petrol prices hit their highest level in more than two years last week, with the cost of 91 octane petrol rising 3c to $2.02, and 95 octane reaching $2.11 per litre. Based on current trends motorists could be paying $2.20c per litre by the end of the year, Stockdale said.

Meanwhile the impact on New Zealand exports to Libya was unclear today. Figures show $51m worth of products, including $49.7

The Ministerial Conference on Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation organized by the Korean Ministry of Finance, the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) of Korea, was opened on Tuesday in the Korean Capital. The conference was packaged to enable participants exchange views on how to further develop relations and economic cooperation between Africa and Korea.

The impact of Bin Laden’s death in the pacific zone.

The recent event of the Osama Bin Laden’s death, who represented the highest authority and the head of world-renowned Al-Qaeda group, has meant great questions and movements worldwide, including in the Pacific’s area that althought they just have a small influence of Muslim in their region, the conflict of terrorism may also be affect them.

Following the death of Bin Laden, the terrorist group began to reorganize and just two weeks after it had declared a new interim chief Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who joined the Al Qaeda a few years ago. The fear of terrorist attacks becomes larger to learn that He has a stranglehold on the military camp and has experience as a strategist, althought he doesn’t possess the charisma and popularity of Bin Laden. Adel seems to take seriously their role in the recent attacks in Pakistan, due to the death of former leader.

Australia has even more worries because the stepmother of the interim chief is Australian. Rabiah Hutchinson married Mustafa Hamid stepfather of the new head, in the last decade when they met in Afghanistan. Security agency of Australia had been chasing Mrs. Hutchinson before she fled to Afghanistan because the links with the terrorist group.

Australia isn’t the only country with fears, in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines continue to appear even hundreds of radicals. One of the most threatening radical base is in Indonesia. It is suspected that they have been financed by Al Qaeda for the attacks in Bali nightclub killing over 200 people in 2002 and two suicide bombs in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta in 2009.

The last summit of the G-20 was in Korea. The meet was on last May 19th with countries such as China, Japan, Indonesia and Australia who are in the Pacific zone, along with other large economies like the U.S., canada, france, Spain, Germany, etc. One of the topics in the summit was the issue of terrorism and the situation of the Osama’s death. The meeting lasted two days, but they still are unresolved what actions thay have to take in front to this intangible threat.

Politics in the Pacific

The politic in the Pacific area is quiet for now. Korea is the next who will have presidential elections shortly. For this, it was held on April 27 partial elections, in which the Democratic Party (DP), led by Sohn Hak defeated strongly his opponent Kang Jae, leader of Grand National Party (GNP). The change is now favoring the left side being the socialist party, the people doesn’t longer want more right-wing party.

Not only were national elections this time. Last Wednesday there was also province-level elections in which three of the four provinces was victorious DP. In every victory meant more than 35% of the vote, and the highest percentage was the national with 51%. Even with a number of studies, the result was completely contrary to the predictions, because the current government is the GNP.

The speculation was increases and political view was affected too. Is obvious that the people want change and the current government will face a renewal process, since it’s likely that with the power that seems to have the DP, it could be now more aggressive.
That is why Prime Minister Kim Hwang took the loss and tries to repair the unhappiness of citizen, calling representatives and government agencies to give solution to the citizen problems’s.

As for the international aspect, other Pacific countries are aware of whether the change occurs. This would represent a change in Korean foreign policy, because the DP manages a policy very different from the present in Korea. Even the president with these events, has had to send uncorrected the free trade agreement signed with the United States. And if this change has to happen we just hope the best for all and for the Koreans.