As you might be aware if you are in Canada (or Korea), 2013 is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Korea (South Korea that is). In fact, official ties between our countries were formalized on January 14, 1963 (although we had unofficial ties beforehand and sent troops to help defend South Korean during the Korean War). But our governments made it official 50 years ago.
The Korean Consulate in Toronto, in conjunction with the Korean Canadian Cultural Association (KCCA) hosted a reception on Monday January 14th to commemorate the occasion and I was honoured to have been invited. The reception was held at the KCCA.
The list of speakers was impressive. Now, I was expecting a wide array of dignitaries, it was an official event after all but even so, the different speeches from various levels of government about our countries set an official and upbeat tone to start the festivities.
Those giving speeches included:
- Consul General Kwang Kyun Chung
- President of the Korean Canadian Cultural Association, Jin Soo Lee
- MP Barry Devolin
- MPP David Zimmer
- MPP Peter Shurman
- City Councillor Raymond Cho
- MP Olivia Chow
The speeches concluded with a toast made by MPP Donna Cansfield and Ms You-Kyung Park, President of the KCWA. Can you see why I was impressed? While I had heard several of them speak before, it was the first time that I heard both MP Olivia Chow and MP Barry Devolin speak in person. For me, this was interesting for several reasons. First, my undergraduate major was political science so I love hearing politicians speak (it’s a weird quirk of mine). But also because my hometown is in Mr. Devolin’s riding and while I’ve never met him – I live and vote in Toronto now – my parents have so it was neat hearing him speak. Plus, I didn’t realize he’d taught in Korea (which was neat) but I did know he was the Co-chair of the Canada Korea Inter-parliamentary Association and the Government Liaison with the Korean Community since 2006 (hey, you know I read anything Korean-related) so it wasn’t unexpected for Mr. Devolin to be there. But I digress.
While I found Mr. Devolin’s speech interesting on several levels, I learned a lot from Consul General Kwang Kyun Chung’s speech. The Consul General is always a great speaker but this speech was filled with interesting facts of the relationship between the two countries – some of which I knew and some of which were new to me. For example, did you know that Korea is Canada’s 7th largest trading partner? I didn’t. I knew there was significant trade between our two countries, of course. But I didn’t realize there was that much trade. The facts about education – that Koreans make up the 2nd largest foreign student population in Canada and that we send so much English teachers to Korea (I was one and many of my friends are Korean students here) – I did know. So much valuable information.
After the speeches concluded, we were treated to several performances. They continued on during the delicious lunch prepared by Arisu. [Side note: I’ve never written a review of Arisu as a restaurant even though I eaten there several times because they seem to cater many of the Korean events I attend. In fact, I’ve even hosted Korean events there. Since I mention them when I talk about the event, I’ve never reviewed them separately as a restaurant.] As always, the food was good and a nice introduction to Korean food for those present who weren’t familiar with it.
The performances included:
- Gilnori (Rose of Sharon Samulnori)
- 꼭두각시 춤 Puppet Dance (Narae Korean Dance Ensembles)
- The Palms (Piano Trio)
- 오나라 Onara (Narae Korean Dance Ensembles)
- K-pop Dance “K-POP 메들리” Mixed Seouls
- Canada’s National Anthem; Arirang (Yemel Philharmonic Chorus)
I was lucky enough to chat with a wonderful Korean storyteller, Seung Ah Kim – whom I’ve written about a few times – before the lunch portion of the reception and it was lovely as always. She’s a charming lady who is always very gracious. And while I loved all of our conversation, one part stuck out even now. She was explaining about the 꼭두각시 춤 Puppet Dance while we were watching the adorable children perform it and now that I understand it better (the movements of the dance mimic the movement of puppets), I feel a strong desire to learn more about other Korean traditional dances.
The reception was one of those fabulous events where every time I turned around, I met another interesting person – some of which I knew but most of which I didn’t (or at least only recognized but not met previously). The table I ate lunch at was filled with fascinating people and conversations. I had a delightful time chatting with them all. And meeting MPP David Zimmer (with whom I share a last name although we aren’t related) was neat. Hey, it’s not everyday I met someone with the same last name. All in all, a lovely afternoon! Happy 50th Canada & Korea, my two favourite countries!
And to cap off an engaging afternoon, we were all gifted with lovely towels when we left. They’re so nice, I’m not sure I want to use them. ^^
Curious about what the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, Korea did to commenorate the day? Check out this blog (it’s in Korean but I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the people even if you can’t read Korean).
Want to learn some interesting facts about Korea and Korea-Canada relations? Check out this great info sheet from the Korean Consulate: Fact Sheet Korea