중앙데일리

36 years of building bridges in Korea

Feb 05,2007
Ian Simm, director of the British Council Korea
Ian Simm, director of the British Council Korea, spends his days trying to fullfill the purpose of his organization ― building bridges.
“Korea and Britain have a good relationship without any past conflicts, but there is little understanding between the two countries,” Mr. Simm said. “Koreans mainly look for inspiration from North America, and some British know little of Korea.”
To change that, Mr. Simm promotes a variety of activities every year aimed at increasing intercultural understanding.
When entering the British Council in Korea, located on the fourth floor of the Hungkuk Life Insurance Building near Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, one finds fliers for cultural events stacked on shelves, several computers and a library.
Korean children study English in rooms with glass walls. Instead of blackboards and white chalk, there are digital projectors. Mr. Simm made it clear that the while the British Council does focus a lot of its effort on young people, it has no intention of competing with private English institutes.
Last month, a pilot program sent seven Korean middle-school teachers from Gyeonggi province to Britain while three British teachers came to Seoul. The purpose of the program is to give teachers a glimpse of what is happening in classrooms around the world. Mr. Simm said he hopes the pilot will grow into a regular program.
The British Council, which was established in 1973, is also involved in cultural performance exchanges, such as inviting well-known dancers to Seoul. The benefits do not end at simply exchanging dancers, Mr. Simm said. Workshops attended by both Korean and British dancers become forums for exchanging ideas and learning about the differences between Asian and Western dance.
Another cultural success has been the British Council’s participation at the annual Pusan International Film Festival over the past 11 years. British movies have been shown every year, and Mr. Simm said last year a special category containing only films by British directors was part of the festival’s lineup.
Starting this year leading British organizations including the British Council, British Embassy and the British Chamber of Commerce are promoting a campaign called, “Think UK.”
This campaign is a response to a campaign a Korean organization in Britain held last year called, “Think Korea.”
“Think UK,” which is aimed at promoting Britain in Korea, will hold several events, including a visit by a British musical team performing the musical “Saturday Night Fever.” Another event will promote study opportunities in Britain.
Mr. Simm said British Councils around the world, including Korea, focus their efforts on young people through media such as sports and human rights, hoping that various exchanges will tighten international friendships.
One of the programs the British Council is offering in other parts of the world is a volunteer exchange program. “Young people from Uzbekistan do volunteer work in Britain while British youngsters are sent to Uzbekistan,” Mr. Simm said.
Another program is “Dream and Team,” which is a youth leadership program that helps children to know and learn more about each other through soccer.


By Lee Ho-jeong Staff Writer [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]


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