The Director-General visits the Republic of Korea

The Director-General visits the Republic of Korea
  • © UNESCO/A. Vohra

From 21 to 26 July 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, undertook his third official visit to the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.), first visiting Seoul for several high-level bilateral meetings and then proceeding to Gwangju to open the 2008 Children’s Performing Arts Festival in East Asia.

In Seoul, the Director-General met with the Prime Minister Seung-soo HAN who congratulated Mr Matsuura on his success in leading reforms at UNESCO. He added that it was primarily thanks to the positive results of this reform process that R.O.K had reinforced its collaboration with UNESCO. Welcoming these developments, Mr Han informed that R.O.K. would re-establish an independent Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. Mr Matsuura noted with appreciation the enhanced partnership between UNESCO and R.O.K. notably in the field of culture and education, and particularly through the support given by the country’s Cultural Heritage Administration for the protection of World Heritage, and through the ongoing funds-in-trust arrangements for the preservation of the Koguryo Tombs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In this regard, Prime Minister Han explained that a successful review of the various funds-in-trust projects had resulted in the country’s doubling its contribution from the level of 2005.

During his bilateral talks with the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Kak-soo SHIN (the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade was out of town at the time), the Director-General noted with satisfaction the growing cooperation between UNESCO and R.O.K. and added that the country was fast assuming active roles in UNESCO, particularly as member of the Executive Board and various intergovernmental committees. He also thanked R.O.K. for becoming an important financial contributor including through voluntary contributions. Mr Shin underscored the importance of elevating this partnership to a new level and informed Mr Matsuura that R.O.K. intended to take on a more dynamic role, notably in the field of culture. As such, he explained that the country would host, in Seoul in November 2008, the extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Committee. He also informed that in August this year, R.O.K. would invite China and Japan to discuss and reach an agreement on the respective specializations of the three proposed Category II regional centres in each of the above countries for intangible cultural heritage. Noting R.O.K.’s initiatives to host numerous UNESCO activities aimed at promoting cultural diversity in the world, including the 2nd World Conference on Arts Education in 2010, the Director-General mentioned the desirability of R.O.K. to ratify the 2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. The acting Minister assured the Director-General that the Convention was currently being examined by the relevant Ministries and that he would ensure its rapid ratification. After the meeting, the acting Minister hosted a dinner in honour of Mr Matsuura with the presence of several official dignitaries including former Korean Ambassadors to France.

In his bilateral talks with the (former) Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mr Doh-yeon KIM (the recent nomination of the new Minister of Education, Mr Byung-man AHN, is yet to be confirmed by Parliament), the Director-General commended R.O.K. for its exceptional performance in EFA. He further noted that the country was an active partner of UNESCO in various fields of education, not only through the financial assistance of the Government and the National Commission, but also through the technical and academic contribution of a number of institutions like KRIVET (the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training) and APCEIU (the Asia-Pacific centre of Education for International Understanding, UNESCO Category II centre). Mr Matsuura appreciated the increasingly important role given to the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and informed the Minister that the National Commission had become one of the most active National Commissions in the world.

Mr Matsuura met with the First Vice-Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Jang-sil KIM with whom he discussed the development of cooperation in the field of culture since his last official visit in 2004. Mr Kim expressed his appreciation at UNESCO’s continued support in the development and promotion of culture in R.O.K., notably through the nomination of eight World Heritage sites and the proclamation of three Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage. He also requested UNESCO’s continued support towards the nomination of two additional sites on the World Heritage List: the Korean Royal Tombs of Joseon Dynasty (cultural) and the Korean Cretaceous Dinosaur Coast (natural). For his part, Mr Matsuura explained that he was informed that the 2005 Convention was currently being examined and that its ratification would be timely given R.O.K.’s initiatives in cooperation with UNESCO towards the establishment of an Asian Culture Hub project in the City of Gwangju.

During his meeting with Mr Kun-moo YI, the Administrator of Cultural Heritage Administration, Mr Matsuura expressed his deep appreciation for the strong support given to UNESCO over the past years to the preservation and protection of World Heritage and hoped that the Organization would continue to benefit from R.O.K.’s valuable support for its cultural activities both at financial and technical levels.

During his official visit, the Director-General received an honorary doctoral degree from the Kyung Hee University, one of the leading private universities in R.O.K. On this occasion, he delivered a lecture on the challenges facing higher education in the 21st century, where he highlighted five main trends: burgeoning student enrolments; the diversification of funding; the increasing diversity of higher education providers; rising student mobility; and the growing mobility as well of programmes and institutions, notably through the use of ICTs.

He also addressed the Korea Foundation Forum on cultural diversity in “our globalized 21st century”, attended by eminent professors and senior government officials. Mr Matsuura stated that “the major stake entailed in globalization in the twenty-first century is no doubt one of encouraging diversity to flourish within a context of open dialogue and exchange and a spirit of appreciation for our common humanity. UNESCO is proud to work closely with all partners concerned to facilitate the international cooperation required to achieve this crucial goal”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 098-2008
  • 29-07-2008
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