In St Petersburg, the House of Journalists hosted the 5th Russian-Korean Humanitarian Forum «Friendship Bridge». Its main theme was the integration of the creative potential of the two countries.

most druzhba 1

The opening ceremony of the event was attended by: Woo Yoon-keun, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Russian Federation; Nikolay Kropachev, the Rector of St Petersburg University and the Chairman of the Russian Coordination Committee of the «Dialogue Russia — Republic of Korea» Forum; and Kim Hyun Taek, the Director of the Representative Office of St Petersburg University at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. The opening ceremony was moderated by Inna Tsoi, the Director of the «Dialogue Russia — Republic of Korea» Forum and an associate professor of St Petersburg University.

The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Russia Woo Yoon-keun opened the forum. He noted that the visit of President Moon Jae-in to Russia and his speech to State Duma deputies are particularly important. This is in the context of the active development of economic and civilian relations between the countries. «We can say that this was a turning point in strengthening ties at the level of strategic partnership,» Woo Yoon-keun commented. He emphasised the role of St Petersburg University and the «Dialogue Russia — Republic of Korea» Forum in the development of horizontal educational and cultural contacts between Russia and Korea.

In his welcoming speech, Professor Nikolay Kropachev recalled an important event in the life of the city and the whole country — the unveiling of the monument to the outstanding Korean writer Pak Kyongni at St Petersburg University. «For several years we have been working together to popularise Pak Kyongni’s work in Russia: the first volume of her novel The Land has been translated and published; many Russian universities have included the study of her creative heritage in their educational programmes; and several academic seminars about her life and work have been delivered,» Nikolay Kropachev said. «We have done a lot to make the name of Pak Kyongni familiar not only to university students, but also to all Russians.»

The main task of the Russian-Korean Humanitarian Forum «Friendship Bridge» is to provide a platform for representatives of cultural institutions of Russia and South Korea. It is where they can meet and exchange experience. The forum has been held annually since 2014, and it has already been hosted in Moscow, Seoul, and St Petersburg.

In conclusion, the Rector of St Petersburg University quoted the philosopher Pavel Florensky, «"Culture is the language that unites humanity". The key to this union is understanding and respect for each other. I believe that the integration of creative potentials will make our countries closer on the path to understanding that runs through the "Friendship Bridge"».

Professor Kim Hyun Taek underlined the importance of the long-standing historical ties between Russia and Korea in building new humanitarian ties. He included the role of St Petersburg in this process. «It was in this city that the Korean diplomatic mission started working in the late 19th century. St Petersburg University was the first place in Europe to start teaching the Korean language,» he said. Among the key focuses of the forum, Kim Hyun Taek emphasised: firstly, a review of the current state of Russian-Korean humanitarian contacts and their development trends; secondly, the search for ways to optimise these ties; and, finally, the organisation of meetings of cultural and art workers for their further interaction.

In addition, Kim Hyun Taek presented the results of a study on the mutual perception of the population of Russia and the Republic of Korea. The surveys were conducted by the Institute of Russian Studies of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM). About half of the respondents in each country show a great interest in information about the partner country. For Russians, South Korea is primarily associated with technology and industry; but for Koreans, Russia is associated with the past — the Soviet Union and communism. Koreans also associate Russia with common stereotypes such as winter, Siberia and vodka. It is important that the image of Korea is directly influenced by Koreans living in Russia. About 64% of Russian respondents have met Russian Koreans, and the majority of those surveyed treat them with empathy. In this regard Professor Kim Hyun Taek noted that the Republic of Korea itself does not sufficiently appreciate the role of ethnic Koreans in Russia. In general, among Russians, the positive perception of South Koreans dominates; while Koreans are mostly neutral towards Russians. Kim Hyun Taek also spoke about the countries attracting tourists and the interest in culture. He cited indices of perception, optimism and interest in cooperation; and described promising areas of interaction.

The organisers of the «Friendship Bridge» Forum are: the Korea Foundation; the Institute of Russian Studies of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies; and the Russian Association of Universities for Korean Studies with the assistance of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in St Petersburg.

Among the key prospects for development of humanitarian cooperation, Kim Hyun Taek highlighted that it is necessary: to strengthen interregional contacts; to shift from one-off events to events on a regular basis; to use the principles of a market economy in expanding cultural bilateral interaction; and to break new ground in relations between people — the level of «sincere response» and «empathy». Soon, in 2021, there will be the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the Republic of Korea. Kim Hyun Taek is convinced that the «Friendship Bridge» should give impetus to new joint cultural projects.

At the sections of the «Friendship Bridge» Forum, scholars and cultural figures of the two countries presented reports on: music; contemporary art and media art; documentary filmmaking; museum studies; and sporting events. Three sessions were attended by: representatives of the Kunstkamera; the Nam June Paik Seoul Arts Centre; the Moscow Electromuseum; the «New Names» Foundation; the SBS TV channel; and the universities of Moscow and St Petersburg. One of the sections was moderated by Anastasiia Gureva, an associate professor of St Petersburg University and a Korean studies expert.

Also, during the event, there was a presentation of the new book «From Posyet to Arbat» by Kim Hyun Taek, Ra Seungdo and Lee Eun-kyung. The work is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Korean culture in Russia. Its name reflects the path of Koreans from Posyet, the border town between Korea and the Russian Empire, to the central street of the capital of modern Russia, Arbat.

At the end of the event in a concert, the famous musician Kwon Jong Goo and his ensemble performed «The Tale of the Wind» with the guitar and traditional Korean musical instruments. One of the compositions was performed together with the St Petersburg singer Natalia Nyu. It became a manifest example of the joint work of musicians from Korea and Russia.