United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General opens the 2008 UNESCO Children’s Performing Arts Festival of East Asia in Gwangju, Republic of Korea

On Thursday 24 July, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, inaugurated the 7th UNESCO Children’s Performing Arts Festival (CPAF) of East Asia in Gwangju Metropolitan City in the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.).

This is the second time the country has hosted the festival, the first being in Suwon in 2004.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Gwangju, the vice-Minister of Culture and Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Chairman of the Federation of Artistic and Cultural Organizations in Gwangju. As in previous years, the Japanese actress Komaki Kurihara also attended the festival, which brought together children from four countries and two regions in East Asia – China (including Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR), Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. Unfortunately, the children from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not participate.

In his address, the Director-General conveyed a special message to the young performers: “the performing arts are very demanding. They require dedication, teamwork and tremendous preparation and practice. But they are also a means to more fully appreciate your own cultures and those of your neighbours. You have come here to share and explore the tremendous richness of the cultural traditions of East Asia. You will spend time with other young people who may speak different languages, eat different food and wear different clothing, but who are ultimately like just like you, and share your passion for the performing arts”. He went on to underscore that “UNESCO counts on you, young leaders of the future, to be its ambassadors in promoting this vision of mutual respect and understanding. In our complex and often troubled world, it is now more important than ever that we celebrate dialogue and tolerance. These are the real foundations for lasting peace and harmony”.

While in Gwangju, the Director-General met with Mr Joon Yung PARK, the Governor of the Jeollnamdo Provincial Government, who hosted a dinner in his honour. Mr Matsuura expressed his thanks to the Governor for hosting the 2008 CPAF in Gwangju and noted with interest that Gwangju is home to the Democratization Movement, referring to a popular uprising in the city in May 1980 following which a national cemetery was established in commemoration for the victims. The Governor expressed his appreciation for UNESCO’s ongoing support towards the preservation of the country’s rich cultural and natural heritage, particularly in the Jeollnamdo Province.

During his meeting with the Mayor of Gwangju Metropolitan City, Mr Kwang-tae PARK, the Director-General congratulated the Mayor’s initiative to place culture at the heart of local, national and regional development strategies, in particular through the project aimed at developing the Metropolitan City of Gwangju into the Asian hub city of culture, and reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to develop cooperation in this regard and to provide all possible assistance for this purpose. Mr Matsuura also suggested that, when the construction of the basic Asian Culture Complex is completed (expected in 2012), Gwangju consider hosting the Culture Forum. He encouraged the National Commission to look into this, drawing on the experience of previous Fora held in Barcelona (Spain) and Monterrey (Mexico). R.O.K. would then need to submit a proposal to organize the Forum in Gwangju to the UNESCO General Conference at an appropriate time.

Mr Matsuura also held bilateral talks with the Assistant Minister from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Office for the Asian Hub-City of Culture, Mr Byung-Hoon Lee as well as the Mayor of Haenam County, Mr Hui-hyeon PARK, who hosted a lunch in his honour.

The Director-General opened the follow-up to the 9th Sub-regional Meeting of Secretaries-General of National Commissions for UNESCO in East Asia, where Mr Matsuura paid tribute to the growing cooperation among the five countries and also underscored the vital role played by the National Commissions, Clubs and Federations in promoting UNESCO’s action at the country level. During this meeting, it was confirmed that the 8th UNESCO CPAF would take place in Nara, Japan from 6 to 8 August 2009. Mr Matsuura expressed strong hope that the CPAF would continue in the years to come.

On his way to Gwangju, Mr Matsuura visited the Haeinsa Temple on Mount Kaya inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995. The temple stores the Tripitaka Koreana, inscribed in 2007 on the Memory of the World Register and represents the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, engraved on over 80,000 woodblocks in the early 13th century. During his stay in Gwangju, the Director-General visited the Korean Cretaceous Dinosaur Coast, home to one of the best known areas in the world for Cretaceous fossil footprints. This natural site is candidate to being inscribed on the World Heritage list. Mr Matsuura also visited the Daehung-sa Temple, the Boesong Green Tea Farm House and the National Cemetery for the May 18 Democratic Uprising.

Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 099-2008 -  Publication Date: 30-07-2008

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