Video contest winner has a close bond with Korea

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Video contest winner has a close bond with Korea


Winners of the 2013 Video Contest Award Ceremony pose in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ekrem Ates is the grandson of a 1950-53 Korean War veteran, and the 22-year-old long dreamed of visiting the country in which his grandfather fought and died.

But as a Turkish university student, he simply didn’t have the money or the resources to do so. That is, until a Korean friend he met through the Internet helped him realize his goal.

What happened next is the story Antes conveyed in a video short, under the theme “My Best Korean Friend,” which won grand prize in a video contest by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His submission beat 464 entries from 85 countries.

Ates narrates the 2:58-minute project - called “Jieuni,” which can be found on YouTube - completely in Korean. In it, he describes how three years ago he posted his grandfather’s story on an Internet forum and expressed his desire to visit Korea.

That’s when Korean student Jeong Ji-eun sent him a message.

She told him she was moved by his story. They chatted, talked on the phone, and Jeong even introduced Ates to her family via webcam.

Several months later, he received an unexpected letter from the Jeong family - inside were round trip plane tickets to Korea. “It was a situation I couldn’t understand,” he said. He called Ji-eun via the Internet, “And she told me it was a gift from her family so that I could realize my dream.”

So Antes flew to Seoul in June 2011 for a month-long trip, which was hosted by the Jeong family. During his stay, he visited the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan, paying his respects at the Turkish memorial. During the Korean War, Turkey contributed military aid to the South, sending a brigade of approximately 5,000 troops.

The 2013 Video Contest Award Ceremony, hosted at Arirang TV in Seocho District, southern Seoul, awarded 15 contestants. Gold and silver prize winners came from countries including Uganda, Brazil and China. Ates received the Grand Prize.

The video contest, in its second year, accepted entries under the theme “My Favorite Korean Food” or “My Best Korean Friend.”

“I really wanted to visit Korea so much because of my grandfather and our past with the Korean War,” Ates said in an interview Wednesday at the ministry in central Seoul. “I heard Korean and Turkish people have a bond because of that.”

His grandmother was the one who told him about his grandfather’s past. But he admitted that it was a difficult subject to discuss, as people generally don’t talk about the deceased in Turkish culture.

Since visiting Seoul, Antes said the Jeongs have become like a second family. “He’s our family,” said Jeong Sun-hyun, 59, Ji-eun’s father.

Ji-eun, now 23, is currently studying the Turkish language at Istanbul University. An advertising major, Ates said he plans to speak with advertisement agencies here to possibly work or study in Seoul in the future.

But in the meantime, “I wish I can bring [the Jeongs] all to Turkey,” he said.

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