[Cultural Center]Germany More Than Beer, BMWs

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[Cultural Center]Germany More Than Beer, BMWs

"Germany? It's famous for beer, sausage and BMWs," declared one member of the German cultural center, citing the attractions in that exact order. However, none of these can be found at the German culture center, also known as the Goethe Institute. Set against Namsan, the building is serene and not a place one would normally associate with frothing beer, fat sausages or sleek BMWs. Named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the playwright of "Faust," the center mostly attracts persons interested in learning the German language.

The German cultural center is tucked away on an inconspicuous road leading to the Hyatt hotel, but through its network associations it maintains a high profile. When the musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club were in town earlier this year, the Goethe Institute sponsored a photo exhibition at the Cinecube Theater to promote their film documentary. The musicians may be Cuban but Wim Wenger, the director of the documentary, hails from Germany. Wim Wenger also made "Wings of Desire."

After "Joint Security Area" was featured at the Berlin Film Festival, the institute organized a screening and panel discussion noting the similarities and differences between Korea and Germany as divided countries.

The line-up of events for May includes a photography exhibition that began last Thursday at the Museum of Korean Modern Literature, titled "Space for Writing." The exhibition by Herlinde Koelbl is a collection of photographs of 42 German authors caught on film while they labored away at their writing. Gunter Grass, Peter Hartling and Sarah Kirsch are just a few of the authors shown at the literature museum near Dongdaemun subway station. The exhibition ends on May 30.

Also scheduled is a joint meeting of authors, librarians and other members of the literary field from Korea, Japan and Germany. On Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives of the three countries will meet to discuss current events of interest to the profession at the Toji Cultural Center in Wonju, Kangwon province.

The Goethe Institute will also provide 1,000 volumes of German books for sale at the 2001 Book Fair at the COEX mall, which will be held June 1 to 6.

The institute has a number of departments other than culture. A teacher training course is available to support those teaching German in Korea. There are also German language courses, a library, computers for surfing the Internet, a cafeteria and an advisor from the German Academic Exchange Service for those wishing to study abroad. For Koreans studying in Germany, music is the most popular academic discipline.

The Goethe Institute was established in Korea in 1968. The current building was designed by German architects and built at the end of the '70s. Membership is free.


While most of the resources available at the center cater to German and Korean speaking people, the center also provides a seminar in English twice a month to the public.

The subjects of these lectures vary and are more of an introduction to Korean culture rather than German. Previous lectures have covered Korean architecture, traditional Korean music and performances, urban planning, environmental issues and problems and Shamanism. The lectures take place every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m.

The last lecture in English was hosted by Tatiana M. Simbirtseva, a Russian author who spoke about culture shock in Korea. Ms. Simbirtseva wrote "Korea at the Crossroad of Time" last year.

The next seminar in English is scheduled for May 23, and will be about gukseondo, a Korean form of meditation that is believed to bring harmony to the body and mind. Yim Kyung-taek will lead the seminar.

For Korean and German speaking visitors, there is a seminar on Saturday at 10 a.m. to discuss Western and Eastern views regarding space. Speakers include interior designers, photographers and authors.

by Joe Yong-hee

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