SEOUL, April 29, 2010 - Some 200 distinguished guests—from Asia Society, the United Nations Command, political and business leaders —were in attendance at the Sapphire Ballroom in downtown Seoul's Lotte Hotel to celebrate the second anniversary of the Asia Society Korea Center.
Prior to the start of the official program, all guests observed a minute's silence in tribute to the sailors killed in the sinking of the Korean navy's Cheonan warship on March 26.
The celebration then officially began with video messages from the Korea Center's colleagues and friends from around the world, followed by a stage performance by Jung Sungha, a 13-year-old self-taught guitar prodigy who has performed in four countries, including the United States, where he toured five cities with fellow finger-picking guitarist Trace Bundy. Most recently, Jung was invited by US First Lady Michelle Obama to perform with David Foster for a concert to benefit the charity Childhelp.
Yu Myung-Hwan, Korea's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, then gave a congratulatory speech in which he expressed his appreciation for the work of the Korea Center. "Leaders from both Korea and abroad have taken part in the events organized by the Center," he said, "and have greatly contributed to expanding the scope of mutual understanding and cooperation in the fields of policy, business, journalism, art and culture. The Korea Center's efforts should be highly regarded for this important work."
Mr. Shin Dong Bin, Vice Chairman of the Lotte Group and Co-Chairman of the Asia Society Korea Center, presented an Award of Appreciation to Reuters journalist Jonathan Thatcher, representing the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club (SFCC), for the club's generous contribution towards the Korea Center's scholarship initiative for the disadvantaged children of families of mixed-ethnicity, as well as, refugee families.
The program also included a 13-minute preview of the upcoming feature film Barefoot Dream, which recounts the true story of a Korean soccer coach who led the East Timorese youth soccer team to winning an international championship. The movie is scheduled to be released to theaters in June, shortly before the beginning of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa. (The Korea Center had previously hosted a screening of the film Crossing, by the same director, Kim Tae-Kyun.)
The musical highlight of the evening was a percussion performance by students from Daesungdong Elementary School in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. The talented children presented an electrifying new genre of music—a combination of Latin and Korean traditional rhythms played on drums of various sizes and also a small traditional horn. The audience showed their enthusiastic appreciation through delighted applause.
Asia Society Korea Center Co-Chairman Professor Lho Kyong-soo of Seoul National University then gave a short speech about the importance of the scholarship program run jointly with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the Seoul Global Center, and the changing nature of Korea's society from a mono-ethnic one to a multi-cultural one. Prof. Lho expressed his hopes for Asia Society's continued growth in Korea and its mission in raising up young leaders to fulfill crucial roles in building bridges between Korea and the rest of the world.
During the sumptuous five-course meal there was a light-hearted Asia Society quiz, to see who had been paying attention on the night and over the past dinner. The three main questions were:
- Which US Secretary of State chose Asia Society for his/her first major foreign policy address?
- What is the name of the Asia Society animal mascot?
- And out of Mumbai, Tokyo, Houston and Melbourne, where does Asia Society NOT have an office?
A bonus question was to see who could remember the name of the night's special guest from the Asia Society Philippines Center (Arnel Casanova, that Center's Executive Director). There was much discussion at each table about the answers (we trust readers will know them all). Winning tables received free drinks vouchers at the chic Pierre's Bar high up in the Lotte Hotel.
The end of the quiz marked the close of the formal part of the evening. Upon leaving the ballroom, guests received a small memento, and left with high expectations of what Asia Society Korea Center will achieve in its third year.