France-Korea friendship group in 30th yearThe Korean manager of a German beer pub near Gangnam Station sounded baffled when he received a phone call to confirm the reservation of more than a dozen guests lunching in the near-empty hall on a weekday. “On our book, we only have some kind of a housewife association ...,” he said, tailing off his sentence.
Unfamiliar to this restaurant manager was the 30-year tradition of the international group known as Le Cercle Franco-Coreen. Since its establishment in 1974, the group has continued a friendly association of Francophones living in Korea. This year, the group boasts more than 150 members, consisting of Korean and expatriate wives. Most non-Korean members’ husbands work either in embassies or for private companies.
“Anyone who can speak French and enjoy French culture, or anyone who loves France can join the group,” said Huilin Kim, one of the group’s 10 board members. Members pay an annual fee of 40,000 won ($33). Yearly membership starts at the end of September.
The Franco-Coreen members engage in various activities to promote friendship and cultural understanding. On a regular basis, members arrange a group tour to local museums and Buddhist temples, learn new hobbies, such as Korean macrame, or maedeup, traditional Japanese flower arrangement, Chinese majongg or engage in the Korean traditional game yutnori during New Year’s holidays.
Once a year, a portion of the membership fees is donated to the Red Cross Korea and other charity groups.
One of the major activities among the members has been to try international cuisine in the capital. Margaret Ledoux, who has dual British-French citizenship, and Diane Lee, a French-speaking Korean, are in charge of “Saveur de Monde,” or “The Taste of the World.”
“We travel the world through international restaurants,” Ms. Ledoux said. “We take particular pleasure in discovering new interesting restaurants that are not necessarily in hotels.”
Ms. Ledoux and other “foodie” members talk of their extensive dining experiences in Seoul, from Swiss to traditional Korean to Indian to Spanish.
In their last Saveur de Monde gathering, members met in Oktoberfest, a German pub in southern Seoul. Over tall glasses of freshly brewed German beer, frankfurters, sauerkraut and kimchi fried rice, 14 members of different walks of life and age spoke about their latest interests.
Huilin Kim, one of four people in charge of members’ outings, had recently discovered a new Chinese restaurant near the Blue House, and she passed along the information in her fluent French. A few Korean women, married with teenage children, sought advice on whether they should have their children studying in Europe return to Korea or not.
Today, Le Cercle Franco-Coreen members mark their celebration of the association’s 30th anniversary with a special luncheon at the residence of former Korean President Yoon Bo-sun in northern Seoul.
“Thirty years is quite a long time for French and Korean wives to have continued their friendly association. Because it is a gathering of two different peoples introducing each others’ cultures, we’ve included in our program Korean court and folk dances, gayageum performance, and a mixture of Korean and Western-style dishes for lunch,” said Ahn Jung-hoon, one of the group’s two presidents.
“We wish to grow and have more participants in the future, not just limited to French people but Francophones from all over the world. Through understanding culture, we can deepen friendship and overcome racial barriers in the world,” Ms. Ahn said.
by Ines Cho
For information on membership, contact Ahn Jung-hoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.