To mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and South Korea, the embassy will kick off a plethora of yearlong events on Wednesday at their national day celebration.
In March 2009, when President Lee Myung-bak visited Australia, the Australian and Korean governments agreed to mark this milestone by designating 2011 as the “Australia-Korea Year of Friendship.”
“Over the past 50 years, Australia and Korea have built a close and firmly-based partnership, stemming back well beyond the history of diplomatic relations, as far back as the 1880s when Australian missionaries first ventured to Korea, and later through our contribution in the Korean War,” said Australia Ambassador Sam Gerovich.
Korea is Australia’s third-largest merchandise export market and is also the third largest source of international students in Australia with about 35,000 Korean students in Australia last year.
Australia Ambassador Sam Gerovich details the events for the Australia-Korea Year of Friendship. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
“We also share with Korea a broad range of common security and diplomatic interests and challenges,” he said. “We have a vested national stake in the continuing peace and stability of the region and the peninsula.”
But this year in Korea, the Australian Embassy is coordinating a series of events and activities throughout the year with the Korean government doing the same down under.
“The primary aim of the various Year of Friendship activities will be to underscore the achievements of the past 50 years and raise public awareness of the importance of the bilateral relationship in both countries,” Gerovich said.
The embassy plans to highlight the richness of Australia’s culture and entertainment and their scientific and technological achievements through visits by some of Australia’s Nobel Prize winners as well as by some other prominent Australians.
They will also spotlight their sporting prowess, the quality of their education, and “many more things that underline the dynamic and creative country that Australia is today.”
These activities will cover a broad spectrum of fields including commercial and business, culture, education, science and technology and intergovernmental relations.
“But our activities will be aimed at presenting to Koreans a more up-to-date and accurate, contemporary image of Australia as a culturally diverse, innovative and technologically sophisticated society,” he said.
Major programs will include media and online public relations as well as cultural programs of classical music, visual arts, youth theatre, contemporary dance, physical theatre and outdoor and street theatre.
Gerovich said to expect high-end classical music presentations throughout the nation by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in November and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in October.
There will be a strong visual arts focus to coincide with Australia’s status as a guest country at the Korean International Art Fair in September, as well as several joint exhibitions at different galleries and museums in Korea.
Also in the works is the “Meet Australia at Ewha” during the Sinchon Festival in May, as another program aimed at younger Koreans.
“We are also keen to highlight and recognize, particularly, the positive contribution that Australia’s very significant Korean community has made to enriching Australian society, and in serving as a bridge between our two countries,” he said.
The first example of this will be at their launch event on Wednesday by bringing to Korea the performing group Consonant Ensemble, which is comprised of four young Korean-Australian musicians who will travel from Sydney for that event.
The most jam packed month of the year will be in May when the embassy has lined up a slew of cultural events for the entire family.
While details for many of the events are still being hammered out, the embassy has set up a website to announce dates for all their events at www.australiakorea50.com and an iPhone application, both to be unveiled on Wednesday.
“The Year of Friendship activities will also help celebrate and strengthen the deep goodwill that exists between us and to provide an even firmer base from which to take our relations forward into the future,” he said.
The events will culminate with the Australian foreign minister’s visit in December.
By Yoav Cerralbo (firstname.lastname@example.org)