Lyudmila Lee: "Tong-il" is hearth of national culture

11.06.2019 12:12 1726

More than 120 representatives of the ethnic minorities live in Kazakhstan, who keep their traditions and customs, play a huge role in the preservation of unity, peace and accord in the country. The Korean ethnos, which actively participates at every stage of the formation of the state, also contributes to the development of Kazakhstan.


The first Korean settlers appeared in Kazakhstan at the end of the 19th century. In 1937, Koreans were deported fr om the Far East, as a result of which about 100,000 Koreans arrived on Kazakh land. In Atyrau region the number of Koreans living in the region is about 3000 people. There is a Korean ethnocultural center "Tong-il", which makes a great contribution to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Korean people. In the interview to our portal, Chairman of the center Lyudmila Lee told about the history and role of the Korean ethnocultural association.

—Could you tell about your activity?

— I work as ALCC Educational Center Director, it's my offspring which turns 20 next year. In our center we teach Kazakh, Russian, English, Korean and prepare for school. Besides the basic work there are a lot of public, not less responsible assignment – Chairman of the Korean public association, deputy of regional maslikhat, a member of Council of business women at Atameken, a member of the Union of businessmen and employers, etc.


—It is well known that Korean ethno-cultural center "Tong-il" has rich history since its establishment. Could you tell about it? What does the name of the centre mean?

—“Tong-il” means “unity” in Korean. The name was not chosen by chance, because the Korean ethnocultural centre “Tong-il” is based on the principles of voluntariness and self-governance, the strengthening of friendship among people and inter-ethnic accord. The centre coordinates the activities of Koreans in Atyrau region to revitalize their language and ethnic culture, and promotes the scientific, practical and entrepreneurial activities of ethnic Koreans, represents the interests of association members and other Korean citizens in various fields.


Famous Honored Builder of the Republic of Kazakhstan Alexey Ten, field worker, holder of the Order "Red Banner of Labor" and the Order of "Badge of Honor" Ogay No-Ok, academician, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Ivan Pak stood at the origins of establishment of Atyrau ethno-cultural public association "Tong-il-Atyrau". The first official chairman of the Korean ethnos was Nadezhda Kim, who managed to organize Koreans, created a council of the most active members, and visited the North and South Korea in delegation for the first time. Under her leadership, the Korean Center actively participated in all city and regional events. Since 1996, the chairman of the Korean national cultural center was elected Maria Utebayeva (Tsoi), knight of the Order "Dostyk" 2nd degree, a member of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, who made a huge contribution to the formation and development of the Korean movement in the Caspian Sea. Under her leadership, the center was an avant-garde among all cultural associations and took an active part in all social and cultural events of the region. She managed to unite and attract activists, among which were S. Tsoi - senior lecturer of Guryevsky fishery technical school, E.Yugai - chief mechanic of Atyrau oil refinery, L. Khan and G. Hegay - teachers, M. Lee - director of "Botagoz" house, N. Pak, E. Kan, L. Nam, A. Nyu, S. Lee, S.Kim and others. Since 2010, the center was renamed into the ethnocultural public association "Tong-il-Atyrau" and at the general meeting V. Pak was elected the chairman. Under Vladimir Pak's leadership, the asset worked a lot with the republican and regional assemblies, with all ethno-cultural associations of the region, local executive bodies, educational institutions, cultural and business institutions, without being isolated within the ethnos.


—Do you have choreographic and vocal ensembles in the center?

—Thanks to the well-coordinated work of the Council of Elders, the Council of Entrepreneurs and the youth wing, the choir of elders "Sarang", the group for the study of Korean and Kazakh languages, "Samulnori", dance groups and K-pop groups are well known outside the region. There are 19 people in the membership of the choir "Sarang", more than 20 songs in the repertoire in different languages, they visited Aktau, Uralsk and were almost in all districts. There are 3 age dancing groups, 2 samulnori groups, which are active participants of all events in the city and in the region.

K-pop is a musical genre that appeared in South Korea and absorbed elements of western electropop, hip hop, dance music and modern rhythm and blues. K-pop is not only music, but today it has grown into a popular subculture with millions of fans, driven by interest in modern South Korean fashion and styles. K-pop is quite popular in Atyrau. Every year, the Days of Korean Culture take place in Atyrau with great success.


—Which holidays are celebrated in the center of Atyrau?

—Our center celebrates the Day of the Elderly, Chuseok Harvest Festival, Lunar New Year Seollal and other holidays every year. The youth component of the Korean ethno-cultural association initiates charity events, briefings, coaching and other events. The First K-pop Festival in Western Kazakhstan was held. This large-scale event was sponsored by South Korean companies. It has become a good tradition to showcase South Korean films and hold charity events and master classes during the Days of Korean Culture in Atyrau.

Tong-il ethno-cultural association has become a hearth for the preservation of national culture, development of original spirituality, and the initiator of many events. It takes an active part in the public life of the region and the republic, works in unity and harmony with all ethno-cultural associations and in close cooperation with the provincial and republican Assembly of People of Kazakhstan. All this work is based on respect and tolerance, and is directed on strengthening of the peace and unity, prosperity and bright future of our multinational Kazakhstan. The Association of Koreans of Kazakhstan is a well-structured organization working on a systematic basis, and under its leadership Koreans of the Atyrau region take an active part in the social, socio-economic and cultural life of the country, in the preservation of friendship and harmony among all people of our republic.


—Is the center conducting international cooperation? Could you tell us more about it.

—The region has a favorable investment climate, and companies from all over the world are opening their offices here. For example, the strategic partnership with the Republic of Korea is developing rapidly. The last meeting of our heads of state was marked by special achievements in the field of economics.


—What traditions of the Korean people do you keep?

—The main elements of ethnic culture, especially the rites of life cycle and peculiarities of everyday life, have been passed down from generation to generation. Intensive daily communication and cohabitation in a multi-ethnic environment, urban lifestyle, lack of any connection with the historical homeland – all this has made significant changes in the traditional Korean culture. During the years of Kazakhstan's independence, significant changes have taken place in the daily way of life, as well as in the festive rites of Koreans. Many elements of ethnic culture have become a thing of the past, with innovations introduced from the outside. At the same time, despite the loss of a number of ethnic features and a high proportion of mixed national families, Koreans continue to maintain their ethnic identity.

—Is there a Korean language course or an evening school at the centre?

—Korean ethnocultural association “Tong-il” successfully runs permanent language courses in Korean and Kazakh, a youth club, and national art and dance classes. Koreans in Atyrau speak Kazakh as well as their native language, Russian and English.

—On June 4, Head of State Qasym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting with the public of Atyrau, wh ere you also made a speech. Could you tell us about your impressions?


—The impressions from the meeting with President Qasym-Jomart Tokayev are only positive. The atmosphere was friendly and warm. The topical issues for our country and the region were discussed during our meeting.

The most important thing is that the President's opinion coincided with that of the participants of the meeting, which means that the vector for further development was chosen correctly.

—At the meeting with the President you mentioned about the monument "Qazaq halkyna myn algys", which was built by Korean ethnocultural center, can you tell about it?

—In the difficult years of repressions, when hundreds of thousands of families of different ethnic minorities were resettled to Kazakhstan, we were accepted as their relatives and shared the last piece of bread, gave shelter and food. 2 years ago, on the 80th anniversary of Koreans' residence in Kazakhstan in the settlement Beibarys, Makhambet district, we installed the monument "Qazaq halkyna myn algys" as a gratitude to the Kazakh people.


The memorial ensemble represents a monument in the form of a stone block with an inscription of expression of gratitude to the Kazakh people in three languages (Kazakh, Russian and Korean), symbolizing simultaneously and the burdens which have dropped out on people in those hard times, and the huge help and support.

Dana Tugambekova

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