[Student Voices]Glory of non-Western culture

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[Student Voices]Glory of non-Western culture

My high school class recently went on a field trip to the Korean National Museum in Yongsan for the special “Glory of Persia” exhibition. The exhibition features artifacts of ancient Persian culture; it proved quite impressive, as many people who have seen it told me. After the trip, I thought it would be great to see more such exhibitions on foreign cultures and history.

The fervor for globalization has grown into an obsessive trend during the past few years. Learning English has become mandatory and exhortations to gain an understanding of other cultures have become familiar. However, [here] interest in other countries is limited in scope since, most of the time, “other cultures” are equated with Western cultures.

It is harder to learn about Asian or African cultures than about European cultures even though European cultures are not at all more important or better than African and Asian cultures. If students are to be nurtured into the global leaders that Korean society so enthusiastically calls for, they should be acquainted not only with a few Western nations, but with many other nations and societies.

Our society and our schools should not just teach about the history of powerful Western nations, but also of the under-appreciated nations. This is the way that students will truly be ready to face people from around the world as they reach for their dreams.

In light of this, the exhibition seems perfectly fitting for Korean society. To many students, Persian (Iranian) culture and history are unfamiliar: to many, Iran is just a nation regarded as a political threat or a name mentioned in passing in history books. Actually (as I learned through the exhibition) Persia has a long history of multi-ethnic empires; glorious artifacts and golden palaces attest to a vibrant Persian civilization. The exhibition presented Persian artifacts from different periods and dynasties, and also drew parallels with Korean culture through those periods. Through this exhibition, many students who have little knowledge of Persian history would be able to gain a better understanding of it, just as I did.

The more opportunities we have to learn about other countries we do not know much about, the more we will get to know about those countries. I believe it is an obligation of the National Museum to facilitate more opportunities by making exchanges with other nations and their museums. The Glory of Persia exhibition was made possible by the ties between the Iranian National Museum and the Korean National Museum. By establishing more such close ties with many nations, more exhibitions like this will be possible and Koreans will have the opportunity to learn about those nations.

Koreans who travel abroad are said to be our unofficial diplomats and should try their best to give a good impression of Korea. It’s often mentioned that Korean history and culture are wrongly perceived or are unknown to foreigners. If that is so, we should not just bemoan the lack of interest in Korean culture, but must equip ourselves with knowledge of other cultures; we cannot expect others to be interested when we ourselves are not ready.

Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Yongin, Gyeonggi

by Seong Joon-hun

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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