South Korean envoy ‘thrilled’ over blossoming cultural ties with Saudi Arabia

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit to South Korea. (SPA/File)
Updated 19 July 2019

South Korean envoy ‘thrilled’ over blossoming cultural ties with Saudi Arabia

  • The two nations wish to work on ‘enhancing cultural and popular exhanges and build bases for cooperation’

RIYADH: South Korea’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has spoken of his “thrill and excitement” over the “marvelous fruition” of cultural ties between the two countries.

Envoy Jo Byung-wook, recently seen on TV enthusiastically dancing and waving a light rod during a K-pop music concert in Jeddah, told Arab News that his country was looking forward to further enhancing Saudi-South Korean mutual understanding and connection of minds.

Relations have continued to blossom following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the east Asian nation last month — the most senior Saudi to tour South Korea since the late King Abdullah in 1998.

In the first bilateral summit between the two countries, the crown prince met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House, and as well as discussing economic and investment prospects the leaders pledged to become “reliable friends for the future,” promising opportunities for cultural exchange.

Jo said that culturally, both countries had plenty to offer. “Korea has various cultural assets to attract Saudi people; pop music, drama, traditional dance, fashion, beauty, food, and even architecture, paintings, and interior design.”

He also highlighted which aspects of Saudi culture he would like to share with his own people. “In 2017 the exhibition ‘Roads of Arabia’ was held in Seoul for about three months, showing Saudi culture and history with its archaeological artifacts, which attracted and fascinated more than 120,000 Koreans. I think this is a good example of what the Kingdom can introduce to Korea.

“Saudi Arabia has beautiful Arabic calligraphy, especially that of the Holy Qur’an, which I believe could fascinate Koreans, since we also have our own way of calligraphy. And Saudi traditional cuisine is very unique and healthy, so I always wanted to introduce it to Korean people,” said Jo.

According to the communique which followed the crown prince and South Korean president’s meeting, the two nations also wished to work on “enhancing cultural and popular exchanges and build bases for cooperation that would continue affecting the coming generations.” To that end, memorandums of understanding were signed in the fields of culture, tourism, sport, social protection, human resources management and civil service.

Academic scholarships

The official communication also stated that South Korea and Saudi Arabia had agreed to expand academic scholarships, exchange programs, educational opportunities, student visits, the translation of distinguished scientific and arts materials and their publication in scientific journals.

Jo added that the Korean Embassy was planning to host several events that would help promote cultural exchange.

Korea is keen to help the Kingdom achieve the goals of Vision 2030, and Korea will actively participate in cultural activities in the Kingdom so that we may contribute to achieving the ‘vibrant society’ goal of Vision 2030.

Ambassador Jo Byung-wook

“The embassy has started a new cultural journey since last year, because my assignment coincided with the period of transformation the Kingdom is undergoing with the launch of Vision 2030,” he said.

During 2018, the embassy held several events including the Korea-Arab Friendship Caravan showcasing traditional and modern Korean music and dance, an exhibit at the Riyadh National Museum — on loan from the Korean National Museum -— displaying more than 500 archaeological artifacts, and the screening of the first Korean movie at the Indian Embassy.

This year officials have planned even more events, such as the 4th Korean Ambassador’s Cup Taekwondo tournament, the 1st Korean Film festival, which will screen several Korean movies, the 2nd Ambassador’s Cup Korean Speech Contest, a reception for Korean National Day, and a workshop by Korean handicraft experts.

“Korea is keen to help the Kingdom achieve the goals of Vision 2030, and Korea will actively participate in cultural activities in the Kingdom so that we may contribute to achieving the ‘vibrant society’ goal of Vision 2030,” said the envoy.

He also commented on the popularity of K-pop, or South Korean popular music, which has recently been sweeping the nation.  K-pop boy band Super Junior recently took to the stage during the Jeddah Season festival as part of their world tour, becoming the first Korean group to perform in the Kingdom.

Jo said: “These concerts will help promote cultural cooperation and increase mutual goodwill between Korea and Saudi Arabia, because culture plays an important role in enhancing mutual understanding and connecting people’s minds.”

The ambassador was famously seen on a televised broadcast getting into his groove at the show. “During the concert, I was so thrilled and excited, and could feel the enormous change that Saudi Arabia is going through, which I believe is a beginning of a marvelous fruition. I can say that I saw a whole new Saudi Arabia that night,” he added.

Jo expected more K-pop groups to appear in the Kingdom, including BTS who are due to perform in the Saudi capital in October as part of Riyadh Season.


Saudi envoy to UN affirms Kingdom’s support for regional peace, security

Updated 26 min 14 sec ago

Saudi envoy to UN affirms Kingdom’s support for regional peace, security

  • Israel and Iran are causing unrest in the Middle East, Al-Mouallimi asserts

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN has affirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to international law and regional security, stability and peace.

Addressing the UN Security Council, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said the entire world recognizes the imperative of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But, he added, Israel continues to procrastinate in implementing relevant UN resolutions, refrains from recognizing the national rights of the Palestinian people, and has continued its provocations, the latest of which was the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Eid Al-Adha, “an attack we condemn in the strongest terms.”

Al-Mouallimi urged the Security Council to reaffirm by all means the fundamental principles of international relations, and to reject occupation, violence, oppression, incitement and sedition by Israel and Iran, which he said are causing unrest in the Middle East.

He added that the Kingdom is always working to encourage development in the Middle East, and believes that comprehensive development in the region is the way to achieve stability, eliminate terrorism and alleviate conflicts.

“The Kingdom always seeks to extend cooperation and commitment to dialogue in order to solve problems through peaceful means, but at the same time stresses that the calls for dialogue should be consistent with the cessation of threats and interference in internal affairs and hostilities, such as attacks on diplomatic missions and attempts to assassinate diplomats, cyberattacks on infrastructure, propaganda campaigns, fueling strife and sectarianism, and supporting and sponsoring militias and terrorist organizations,” he said.

“Without a practical cessation of these practices, any call for dialogue is just a facade and a tool to achieve the goals of expansion and domination.”