Australia’s relationship with the Republic of Korea has been “shamefully neglected”, according to one of the many speakers at this year’s Korea Update which marked 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Australia and South Korea.
This year’s Korea Update was hosted by the ANU Korea Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific on 29 October.
It saw global experts from the academic and policymaking communities discuss current socio-cultural, political, diplomatic and security issues related to the Korean peninsula.
Beyond the global popularity of the series Squid Game, now the most watched Netflix debut series in history, the Korea Update focused on the greater need for diplomacy with Australia and North-East Asia.
Political science and international relations expert, Professor Shin-wha Lee of Korea University, said far more could be done to enhance the bilateral relationship between Australia and Korea.
“Given our shared middle power status and common goals, the Australia-ROK relationship is shamefully neglected by both sides,” Professor Lee said as an important reminder for diplomatic ties between Canberra and Seoul.
One of the world’s foremost experts on North Korea, Professor Andrei Lankov from Kookmin University, said there are “no cons, only pros” to opening the lines of communication between Australia and North Korea.
The opening address of the Update was given by Dean of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific Professor Helen Sullivan, while the ANU Korea Institute was delighted to welcome member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and leader of the ACT Liberal Party Elizabeth Lee to open the Update.
Ms Lee paid tribute to the Korean immigrant community in Australia, the welcome they have received, and spoke eloquently of the need for greater diversity in Australian political life.
Other highlights included a session on the fractious Japan-South Korea relationship where ANU expert on North East Asian diplomacy Dr Lauren Richardson argued that Japan must accept historical problems dating back to World War II have a place in the Japan-South Korea relationship, and cannot be wished away.
The Update’s final session on the Korean culture boom around the world generated a lot of interest.
Speaking about the global boom in demand for Korean language, Professor Ross King of the University of British Columbia, warned that without sustained commitment to language teaching infrastructure along the lines of the Goethe Institut and Alliance Franaçise, this demand will go unmet.
The Korea Update was followed by the grand opening of the Korea Corner, a new bespoke space in the Coombs building on the ANU campus which features Korean design details.
The Korea Corner was officially opened by Ambassador of Republic of Korea His Excellency Jeong-Sik Kang and Director of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language Professor Simon Haberle.
To mark the opening, the Korea Institute staged a virtual tour, invited congratulatory messages from its student circles (ANU Korean Student Society, Korea-Australia Alliance, and the ANU K-pop Club) and hosted a unique performance of Korean traditional art.
Students interviewed designer of the space Associate Professor Roald Maliangkay on the inspiration and challenges involved in fitting out Korea Corner under COVID-19 restrictions.
Once the campus re-opens, the Korea Corner will be accessible to students, staff and the general public, providing a beautiful venue for Korea-related academic and cultural events plus gatherings for faculty, students, residents and visitors to the Korea Institute.
The ANU Korea Institute is grateful to the Korea Foundation and the Republic of Korea Embassy in Canberra for their generous support of the Korea Corner.
Performance of traditional music from Korea was by: Jocelyn Clark, gayageum (Professor, Pai Chai University); Choi Jinsook, pansori (Yisuja, Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 5, Pansori) and Shin Seunggyun, drum accompaniment (Yisuja, Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 82-4, Namhaean Byeolsingut).
Image: A/Professor Bridget Coggins from University of California, Dr Peter Lee from ANU, Professor Shin-wha Lee from Korea University, and ANU Korea Institute Director A/Professor Ruth Barraclough during the Korea Update. Photo: Screenshot