West Coast gets a taste of the "Korean Wave"

July 4, 2011 7:37:18 PM PDT
A new push by the White House to pass a South Korean free trade deal is about to begin. It's a tough sell on Capitol Hill, and the Korean consul general in San Francisco feels it's because many here, and around the world, just don't know enough about Korea. He's setting out to change that with an unusual diplomatic effort.

It was a real hands-on lesson in diplomacy at the home of Korean Consul General Jeong-Gwan Lee in San Francisco, as his wife gently guided guests in learning how to make Korea's national dish, Kimchi.

"I want to make a friend with Kimchi," said Lee's wife, Jongran Park.

"Food is one the most important means to perform cultural diplomacy, letting people around the world know more about the culture of my country," said Lee.

"We can learn other country's culture, we can share emotion," said Park.

Park and her husband are using this event as part of their larger passion to educate others about South Korea. Diplomats representing countries around the world came to learn. It was sponsored by the ladies of San Francisco's Consular Corps.

"China and Japan, two countries so well-known to the U.S., but compared to that, Korea is less known to the people in the United States."

The consul general says his country has made an extraordinary recovery since the days of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

"We may be poorest country in the world, and we started from there," said Lee.

You've seen the products exported from Korea that make it an economic powerhouse.

"Now we have become between 10th and 15th largest economy in this world," said Lee.

South Korea's high speed rail is a technical marvel, and now they are bidding to build California's high speed rail system. South Korea was the first emerging nation to host the G20 summit -- the group of 20 top world leaders gathered in Seoul in 2010 to talk about the global economy. And then there is the cultural movement, something called Hallyu -- the "Korean Wave."

"The Korean Wave is contemporary culture, including pop music, drama and movies," explained Lee.

South Korea wants to blend the best of their cultural past with a dynamic future in every arena. It begins with their beloved Kimchi and gracious hospitality.

There is so much interest in South Korea right now in the Bay Area, that several schools are offering programs to teach the Korean language.


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