Shanghai-ROK ties get closer with cultural exchanges
Kim Seung-ho initiated the idea to host an exhibition featuring artworks by 30 Chinese and South Korean artists born in 1992, when China and the Republic of Korea established formal diplomatic relations.
The ROK consul general in Shanghai deemed such cultural exchanges between young artists of both countries the best way to commemorate the historic moment three decades ago.
"The so-called 'standing at 30' means a man should stand on his own in society in the 30s," Kim told the artists in fluent Mandarin at the opening ceremony of the exhibition on the Bund.
"The brilliance that ROK and China have achieved in the past 30 years was created by your fathers, and the next 30 years belong to you. You should take over the baton and fulfill your responsibilities," he exhorted.
Kim was appointed to the post in Shanghai in 2020 when the pace of global trade and investment was slowing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He organized many cultural exchange events in the past two years to "keep the hearts between peoples of the two countries closer."
The 60-year-old senior diplomat, who used to be the ROK's ambassador in Iran, closely watched each of the paintings, photographs, art installations and videos.
He quickly found his zodiac sign, a crawling tiger, from a silk painting created by a Korean artist.
"It is a common story in our countries about why the rat becomes the first zodiac sign," Kim said.
He was also attracted by the last part of the exhibition, an installation titled "Living Room" created by a Shenzhen artist. He leafed through a photo album collecting the childhood photos of the artists from both countries.
"The cultural difference between the two countries is not so much and you cannot distinguish which painting was done by Chinese or Korean artists," said Kim.
"You can not even recognize whether I am a Korean or Chinese."
Koreans and Chinese should voluntarily open their hearts and initiate curiosity for each other, he added. Such attitude is more effective in building stronger ties between the two countries than merely introducing some Korean products or restaurants.
Apart from the exhibition, the consulate plans to invite young people from both countries to visit the Site of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai's Xintiandi commercial hub later this month and travel to southwest China's Chongqing City, where the provisional government was once based.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the exchanges between the youths of the two countries should never stop, Kim suggested.
Q: What's your first impression of Shanghai and what has been the biggest change for you in the last three decades?
A: There were not so many tall buildings in the city when I first came here 30 years ago. But in the last three decades, I've witnessed the full scale of development, especially in the Pudong New Area.
Apart from that, what surprised me is the change in the eyes of Chinese people. Thirty years ago, the Chinese people I met in Shanghai were a little bit shy and lacked confidence. They seemed anxious about uncertainty of the future. But after 30 years, I find full confidence and generosity in your eyes.
Q: Shanghai and Busan became sister cities in 1993. Can you brief us on the cultural and economic cooperation between the two cities?
A: The two cities have been regularly exchanging delegations. The two governments have also been promoting various cultural events in both cities. University and high school students of both cities also have regular exchange events.
It's a pity that such exchanges have stopped due to COVID-19. I hope sooner or later the two cities can restore their usual exchanges of friendship.
Q: Shanghai aims to become the world's eSports capital, and players from China and ROK always dominate key eSports events. Is there any cooperative project on metaverse or gaming between the two countries in Shanghai?
A: Ten years ago, ROK's Internet and game market was dominated by Korean products. But now, the game market is evenly divided into Korean, Western and Chinese products, whose popularity is growing quite rapidly.
The main part of computer games is not the technology but the storytelling, which cannot be invented without a strong background of cultural history. That is why Chinese games are growing very rapidly in the ROK market. ROK and China have very similar cultural backgrounds. We've learned many Chinese stories in childhood.
So I think if China and ROK can work together, Chinese and Korean game products can dominate the world market.
Q: What role does Shanghai play in the economic and trade exchanges between China and ROK. How much is Shanghai-related import-export volume? How many ROK companies and people are there in Shanghai?
A: Last year, ROK's trade to Shanghai amounted to US$30 billion. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, a total of about 6,000 ROK companies have come to Shanghai.
However, the number does not matter. What really matters is how the ROK and Shanghai will shape their economic relations from now on.
The cooperation between the ROK and Shanghai is like the first steps on a snow-covered field. Our steps will be followed by other Chinese cities and the whole of China.
That relationship involves both cooperation and competition, because Shanghai's information technology, science, finance and computer sectors are very competitive. Competition is inevitable but cooperation is more important.
Q: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his ROK counterpart Park Jin in early August. They agreed to maintain the stability of global industry chains and friendly relationship despite the complex international situation. How important was this meeting to China-ROK relations?
A: We are quite close countries, whose political and economic ties are multilevel. This ministerial meeting means high-level talks between the two countries have gradually returned to the pre-COVID level. Before the pandemic, our ministerial or high-level meetings were held on a daily basis.
I hope the ministerial, vice ministerial, premier- and presidential-level meetings will resume as soon as possible, though it depends on China's and ROK's COVID-control efforts.
I hope the two countries will eventually succeed in controlling the pandemic, and high-level meetings will resume and become the foundation on which economic and cultural ties can become closer.