[Viewpoint] Creating a better world together“I learned mask dance and how to make masks. I am also learning the Korean Language,” said Ngawang Tenzin, who also studies Korean history and translates it into Bhutanese. A Buddhist temple worker, Ngawang is currently working with the organizers of the Andong Festival. One indication of the level of a nation’s progressiveness is a consciousness of its brand image and its willingness to learn from other countries by sending foreigners to work within its territorial boundaries. The Cultural Partnership Initiative (CPI), which is hosted by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCTS), and organized by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute (KCTI), provides Tenzin with such an opportunity. He is the lone participant from Bhutan.
The cultural exchange program has brought hundreds of scholars, artists and students to Korea to learn and contribute their knowledge of cultural diplomacy, policy, the humanities, as well as pedagogy. The CPI program is an important platform for critical thinking in a multi-cultural society. The world nowadays is fast becoming an arena wherein exclusivity is no longer the norm, and interdependency is spreading. Former 2009 CPI participant Dana Kim-Alimbekova demonstrated this when she said her CPI experience was an important milestone for her doctoral studies on the tourism industry of Astana, Russia.
Ellen Directo is working with a government-owned television channel in the Philippines. Her experience with Arirang TV has greatly influenced her work as a broadcast research analyst. For Aria Dhanu, a reporter from TVRI, Indonesia, who celebrated his birthday with us last week with a feast of teokbokki, gimbap, ramen and eomuk, said that he learned much from the newsroom system at Arirang TV. Meanwhile, Meryem Mery a silver medalist at the recently concluded World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2011, mentioned that her training at Kukkiwon has greatly enhanced her skills and abilities as a Taekwondo coach in Morocco. These are just a few of the testimonies by the people in the CPI program this year.
My experience, on the other hand, has its own peculiarities.
The moment I arrived in Korea, I could not help but explore the many aspects of Korean life. In the first few weeks, I was wondering how I should proceed with my research, because there is so much to study and learn. Our schedules are full on weekdays. The CPI host organizations have arranged a wonderful schedule for us - including 200 hours of Korean language study at Kyunghee University. My weekends are for meeting new and old friends, attending various fellowships, church services and bible studies.
As I started to focus on my research, new things popped up, such as a visit to the National Library of Korea, attending a pottery workshop and craving more experiential learning and, of course, shopping.
The best experience that I have had in this country has been its influence on my Christian faith.
My stay in this country has given me time to reflect on God’s sovereign power. His faithfulness is greatly manifested through the CPI program. In a world where a search for meaning is tantamount to one’s expression of life’s purpose, the CPI program has sincerely brought new meaning to my life.
Comparing my experience in Korea to a hamburger, my spiritualness is the patty, while my experiences and learnings on intercultural dimensions are the bun. Indeed, my time in Korea has brought me closer to God, thanks to CPI.
The CPI program is very much commendable, not just because of its contributions to the lives of hundreds of people around the world or the image of the Republic of Korea, which it evokes, but it profoundly impacts the development of responsible leaders that will help to make this world a better place to live in - not only for this generation, but for generations to come.
In summary, let me end by quoting Professor John Deighton on the occasion of the 2011 International Nation Branding Conference. “Brand strategy is important in promoting Korea, but contextual messages are usually lost for many reasons, so invite them to think along with you, don’t just tell them about you,” he said. This is exactly the purpose of the Cultural Partnership Initiative Program.
*The writer is a visiting researcher for the Korean Culture and Tourism Institute.
By Carlo B. Ebeo