'Culture needs to be absorbed naturally'

'Culture needs to be absorbed naturally'

EXPAT SPEAK

'Culture needs to be absorbed naturally'

In ancient times, “Princess Heo of Ayodhya married King Suro of Gaya, an ancient Korean kingdom. They had eight boys and four daughters. At present, eight per cent Koreans say that they are descendents of this clan and have Indian DNA, including myself,” shares Kim Kum-pyoung, director of Korean Cultural Centre(KCC) and Counsellor-embassy of Republic of Korea, revealing his cryptic connection with India. 

A Buddhist by religion and an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, he never thought he would get a chance to work in this country. “I read a book by Mahatma Gandhi while pursuing liberal arts in high school and started respecting him. His concept of three monkeys is similar to Buddha’s teachings. When I majored in Korean Art and Literature in the University, I was shy like him. I wanted to become a poet or a writer but realised that there were a lot of talented writers,” he laughs sharing his childhood aspirations as destiny decided him to be the bearer of Korean culture.
He worked for KCC in Japan before being appointed in India. “It was April 8, 2011 when I first landed in Delhi as the Korean Embassy initiated the mission of opening KCC in India and declared 2011 as the year of Korean-Indian friendship. My mind was ruled by Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching and after coming here, on the very first weekend I went to visit Gandhi Smriti and Raj Ghat. The whole experience was very touching,” for the official who had grown up in the southern part of Korean peninsula.

“After coming here I realised that I played the same games like gilli-danda, gitti and pitthu in my childhood that children play in India,” he says in amazement since he thought “these are Korean traditional games”. 

While he set out for a mission to familiarise Korean culture to India, he didn’t realise that the task would be a daunting one. He signed the contract for a building for KCC and found that he was cheated. “It was the hardest time of my life. I had affinity towards Indian society and came to India to develop friendship but my intensions were hurt,” he shares pointing at newspaper clippings from India and Korea. 

Shattered, he didn’t let the hope in him die and stuck to his optimistic nature. “It was very hard for me to find another building,” he recollects adding, “Like they say in Indian culture - God is kind, I eventually inaugurated this centre at its present location. Der aye durust aye,” he laughs and his twinkling eyes reveal the pain he suffered.

Now, having spearheaded various cultural events organised on the occasion of 40 years of Korea-India diplomatic relations, Kim says, “We cannot push culture but it needs to be absorbed naturally like my chai,” and points to Indian tea, “this is with milk (unlike Korean tea),” and gets back to work with the wishful thought of importing “Indian way of speaking English and their secret of spiritual happiness,” to Korea, someday!

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