Event marks war, progress in Europe
As a country at the center of both World Wars, the Embassy of Germany in Korea wanted to provide the public with an opportunity to reflect on some of the most tumultuous times over the past 100 years.
The exhibition, “Dictatorship and Democracy in the Age of Extremes: A Focus on European History,” co-hosted by the embassy and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, charts Europe’s journey throughout the 20th century through 26 large-scale posters with 190 photographs marking each milestone.
The photos present the conflicts throughout Europe starting with the First World War and end with its consolidation as the European Union.
For Germany, this year is especially meaningful: It marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I as well as the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the last remaining vestiges of World War II and a symbol of the nation’s division and subsequent reunification.
Markus Hatzelmann, first secretary at the German Embassy, said the exhibition, which illustrates Europe’s historical progression, is reminiscent of the current situation in East Asia, particularly its nationalistic atmosphere and growing ambitions over regional supremacy.
“As a diplomat, I think it is important not to obsess about our own interests and losses in diplomacy, but to take the relationships between neighboring countries into account and communicate with them,” Hatzelmann said.
In a letter of contribution to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, warned that the type of conflicts that European nations experienced over the past century could occur at any time around the world.
“Many Europeans hoped that war would not break out, knowing it was irrational and disadvantageous for their own countries since European culture and its economy was so interrelated at that time,” he said in the statement, which was translated into Korean.
“But the war took place, [and officials believed] it would be finished quickly and successfully, which was a misjudgment. Today, countries are [intimately intertwined] much more than in the past. But those countries can hurt each other and provoke conflict.”
During the media conference, Hatzelmann referenced a quote by the German philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), which states: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”
He added, however, that he hoped the exhibition would prove that sentiment wrong, and encouraged visitors to reflect on what could be done to avoid similar tragedies.
The event, which kicked off Friday, will run until Nov. 21 at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Jongno District, central Seoul.
BY PARK YUNA [email@example.com]