Established on September 1, 2017, the ASEAN Culture House is a unique center to introduce ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) culture to South Korean citizens. The ASEAN Culture House activity is delivered in cooperation to ensure that local people benefit from inspiring cultural experience.
In the interview, Mr. Chang-sun Jee, Director, Planning and Management Department, ASEAN Culture House told us about the mission of the ACH, the activities, exhibitions and programs that the Center provides.
-ASEAN Culture House serves as a cultural bridge for the ASEAN nations. Could you tell about the ASEAN Culture House’s founding and mission?
-As you see from the front name of the ASEAN Culture House, our center represents the ASEAN, as well as the ASEAN culture to Korean citizens. We are all friends and only by better understanding each other we can prevent misinterpretation and build true friendship. In that aspect increasing awareness of cultural understanding and historical understanding can be significant.
You may wonder what specific culture we introduce. I can classify and tell about these activities. There are four factors – performance, exhibition, movies and academics. Permanent Exhibition Hall introduces indigenous culture on the second floor. Special Exhibition Hall represents common cultural aspects of the ASEAN member nations on the first floor. Before the current exhibition hall, we had theme “Underwater”, so we portrayed the life under water of the ASEAN member nations. We are seeking to find overlapping factors and aspects of the ASEAN member states. We have a photo contest related to the ASEAN as well. We do not only have exhibitions, but also we provide workshops with photographers and artists, so we engage children into the program.
There are two floors where we hold exhibitions, these are the places where we introduce ASEAN culture. It is not only one-way exhibition, but two-way one. Visitors can touch the culture, experience it, create their own videos and art pieces.
The second one is movie. Busan is very famous for movies and we have BIFF organization. There are a lot of content markets as well. In cooperation with ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Culture House show movies of ASEAN to Korean residents.
As for performance, we invite performers from the member states. However, it requires a lot of finances so we cooperate with different international organizations in order to realize this project. There is also “Viva ASEAN” program including dancers from 10 member nations. They had tours across the country and Korean residents enjoyed it very much.
In terms of academic relations, the ASEAN Culture House offers educational programs about Korea and the ASEAN region to enhance understanding of the region. We invite professors in the fields of history and culture and they deliver lectures in the related spheres.
From March to December, we choose one specific country from ASEAN nations and focus on it. The program called “Easy Access ASEAN”. The embassies of the ASEAN nations in South Korea provide assistance in order to realize this project. In this regard, I would like to mention the Indonesian Ambassador, who shows great interest to our Culture House and makes generous contribution.
Also we provide cooking classes for grown-ups and children as well. The ASEAN Culture House provides exchange programs for local and international students.
Our mission is to increase awareness of the ASEAN culture to Korean citizens, so they can be familiar with the ASEAN region and the ASEAN member nation’s culture. There is no other culture house besides the ASEAN, so the ASEAN Culture House is the unique organization to introduce culture to people. The international community is mainly focuses on politics and economy affairs, but I believe that cultural exchanges are very important. Korean culture is well-known among the ASEAN nations, but the Korean citizens do not know much about the culture of other ASEAN member states. So we are seeking for the balance and put our efforts.
-What kind of cultural networks are made by the ASEAN Culture House?
On September 6, 2019, ASEAN Culture House signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ASEAN Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand and the first cooperative project between the two institutions was an event entitled “Viva ASEAN – ASEAN Cultural Roadshow.”
I have told about two-way interaction, we should move away from one-way cooperation. Two-way cultural communication is significant and important, currently Korean government puts efforts to realize new policy. It highly emphasizes of 'three P': People, Prosperity and Peace. I think that person-to-person interaction is meaningful and a cultural dialogue is of great significance. Therefore, only by understanding we can develop and sustain that economic and political cooperation. In this regard, I would like to stress the importance of cultural exchange again.
I think, a basic reason why South Korea could develop like this is thanks to neighboring ASEAN member nations, their supporting role was significant. During Korean War a lot of soldiers from the Philippines and Thailand helped and supported the United Nations Military. Thanks to their contribution, South Korea did not collapse during the war.
-What do you expect visitors to get after visiting the ASEAN Culture House?
-I would define my position as a public diplomacy practitioner. I personally want those visitors to truly understand the cultures of neighboring countries, feel comfortable and friendly about them. Based on friendliness, they could be closer friends. I wish the guests of the ASEAN Culture House could learn that we are not different, we have something in common.
Photo by Park JungKeun