Diplomacy in art museums

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Diplomacy in art museums

Ceremonial protocol is the first step in diplomacy, and at the core of protocol is the dinner banquet. All means are used in diplomacy, so lunch and dinner banquets are just as important as official meetings. When good food and drinks are served in beautiful surroundings, attendees are more likely to reveal what’s really on their minds. And lunch and dinner banquets for state leaders are often used as opportunities to express how the host country feels toward the guests.

Hans Morgenthau, a leading figure in the study of international politics, said that the fate of a nation is determined at the banquet. The White House had celebrity chef Anita Lo prepare the state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in September. Lo prepared a special menu that included lobster and lamb. Xi was impressed by the dessert presentation of the red Chinese pavilion and bridge in chocolate. It was meant to serve as a message of friendship.

By contrast, the British government served domestic beef to French president Jacques Chirac in 1996, at the height of mad cow disease panic. It was an obvious protest to France’s ban on British beef imports.

Seat assignments are also a sensitive issue. Where a guest sits is often considered an indication of the country’s status. At the 2009 Group of 20 banquet in London, the British and Italian prime ministers insisted they sit near newly inaugurated U.S. President Barack Obama, and their demand was granted.

Banquet location is also important. In 1961, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan held talks, Khan insisted that the dinner take place at Mount Vernon, the birthplace of George Washington - a strategy he used to imply that he was also a founding father of his country.

On Nov. 1, the welcome banquet for the trilateral summit with China and Japan was held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, regarded as the best location to improve relations among the three nations. But this wasn’t the first time a state event was held at a museum. During the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the banquet for the spouses of state leaders was set up at the National Museum.

In fact, banquets are commonly held at museums in other countries. The British Museum and the National Gallery in London openly advertise how many guests each gallery can hold for special events. In 1989, the Group of 7 banquet was held at the Louvre Museum in Paris. And when President Park visited the United States in 2013, a banquet dinner was held at the Smithsonian Museum. Multi-tasking is a virtue today. Officials can wisely utilize museums and galleries for various purposes.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 2, Page 31

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