British Center Boosts English, ArtsIn 1999, Queen Elizabeth II flew to Korea for the opening of the British Council building, among other diplomatic duties. This royal visit marked the cultural center's auspicious beginning.
The cultural center had outgrown its old site, which was established in 1973, and was getting ready for the new millennium. Their move was well-timed, because by the year 2000, members numbered 4,000 and ranged from children to adults, both British citizens and Koreans on their way to becoming Anglophiles.
The center places emphasis on English language and the arts. After school hours, children pack into the second floor, where the Children's Learning Center is located. The quietest public area is the first-floor library, even though a wide screen television is tuned to the BBC (the sound is turned down low) from its opening at 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, when it closes. Students interested in studying abroad have access to voluminous reference material. Membership costs 30,000 won ($23) and applications are accepted over the Internet at www.bckorea.or.kr.
Cultural activities are high on the center's agenda. "We're into the creative industries, so there's a lot of collaboration with animation, fashion design, film and other visual arts," said Mark Baumfield, the director of the center.
The headquarters in Britain owns 8,000 artworks that tour in the 110 countries where British Council offices are located.
For more information, call 02-3702-0600. The British Council is located behind Koreana Hotel in Taepyeong-ro 1 ga.
UPCOMING CULTURAL EVENTS
When it comes to music, Britain rocks. After all, musicians such as the Beatles, The Clash and Oasis hailed from there.
Just as hip as the music are the image designs that go hand in hand with the rock stars. Focusing on album cover designs from the 70s to the present, the Sound Design exhibition from June 7 to July 6 will show works from 15 designers. These include Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett, Vaughan Liver, Mark Farrow and Ben Drury.
It's hard for a British pop culture lover stuck in Korea not to salivate upon hearing the words, "London Underground." Drawing upon 12 artists ?Don Bury, Graham Crowley, Tomoko Takahshi, and Clare Woods to name a few ?the exhibition shows a snippet of contemporary art in the new millennium. Will "London Underground" be as good as it sounds? As the show doesn't open at Sungkok Art Museum until Sept. 18, you'll have to wait to see.
When Mark Baumfield left his post as Director of British Council, Western Japan, for Korea, who would have guessed that he would meet British royalty in the Land of the Morning Calm? Mr. Baumfield, who has been director of the British Council, Korea, since 1999, spoke briefly with the JAI English Edition about England and his role as director.
IHT-JAI: What do you miss most about England?
Baumfield: I miss the green grass and the sweet smell all through spring, summer and autumn. The campuses in Sinchon, the green area near Deoksu Palace and the residence of the British Embassy come close to reminding me of England.
IHT-JAI: Are you a big soccer fan?
Baumfield: I am a great soccer fan. I follow the fortunes of Watford FC in England, and I fully expect England or Scotland in the World Cup finals next year.
IHT-JAI: How do you view your role as director?
Baumfield: I'm here to make long-term friends for Britain.
Mr. Baumfield is leaving Korea by the end of this year for a stint in Brazil. He will serve as Director of the British Council in Rio de Janeiro.
GUIDE TO USING THE SERVICES AT THE BRITISH COUNCIL
The library is crammed with travel brochures, how to study abroad manuals, magazines, newspapers, computers for surfing the Internet, rental videos and monitors for watching movies. The center sometimes gets British videos before they open in Korean cinemas.
Videos are screened on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. On Saturday "Chicken Run" will be shown and "James and the Giant Peach" is scheduled for next weekend.
Students interested in studying abroad can consult with an advisor from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Scholarships are available from to Ph.D. the level. There will be a session on the University of Sussex on May 23.
The classrooms of the Teaching Center are on the second floor. Classes range from a general English course for elementary students to business writing seminars for adults. Current courses will end June 15. The next children's term starts June 25.
There is a one-year waiting list for some of the children's classes, so sign up as early as possible. New students are required to take placements tests. Students interested in studying abroad can brush up on or learn English for standardized tests.
For adults, there are several levels of language courses. For people with tight time constraints, there are intensive one-day courses. For people who can commit to nightly studies, there are seven-week classes. Language courses place emphasis on either speaking or writing.
Special courses include giving effective presentations. The first class is May 19, the second is June 2. For advanced students, there is a class on contemporary events.
by Joe Yong-hee