A cultural way to get in steppeAnthropologists say that Koreans' closest ethnic brethren are people from the prairie tribes of Mongolia. Indeed, the Korean language is said to originate from the Mongolian tongue, share similar syntactic patterns.
Affirming Korea's connection to its central Asian relation is a Mongolian cultural center that opened in northeast Seoul last year.
The Mongol-Ulaanbaatar Cultural Promotion Center serves as a museum where you can see important historic relics and cultural artifacts from Mongolia. It also organizes seminars and exhibitions on Mongolia and provides Mongolian language courses. Four times a year, lectures are held on subjects like Mongolia's history or social life.
If you're interested in journeying to Mongolia and its vast steppes, the center also provides travel information.
Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1990, Korea has steadily increased trade with Mongolia. The center was established to foster and cement cultural and social exchanges between the two nations. Currently there are nearly 17,000 Mongolians living in Korea.
At the museum you can see exhibits displaying traditional attire, musical instruments, and dolls from Mongolia. Also on display are ger, or yurts, which are fully furnished with cooking utensils and furniture. The ger is a symbol of the nomadic life lived on the Mongolian plains. It is essentially an igloo-shaped structure made from wood and sheepskin with a fireplace in the center.
Newspapers from Mongolia arrive at the center weekly. Paintings of the vast Mongolian landscape can be bought in the gift shop.
Apart from providing general travel information for Mongolia, the center arranges package trips, one in the summer and one in the winter. "The summer trips are a way to experience nature of Mongolia while the winter trips are mostly taken by college students who wish to experience the nomadic life of the inland tribes," says the director of the center, Jeong Seok-jin.
Special exhibitions and musical performances by traditional Mongolian artists are organized intermittently throughout the year. The center also sponsors agricultural projects in Mongolia, such as livestock industry development.
To get to the center, take subway line No. 5 to Achasan Station. Go out exit 3, then go down about 100 meters. The facility is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and public holidays.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.mongolcenter.org or call (02)446-4199.
by Choi Jie-ho