By Osa Mbonu
Chiamaka Ibebunjo is a staff member of the Korean Cultural Centre. She shared some aspects of the South Korean arts and culture with OSA MBONU, Arts Editor of Vanguard, during the recent International Arts & Craft Expo in Abuja. This is what they discussed:
Tell us about some of the activities of the Korean Cultural Centre.
We recently had Korean National Day on the 13th (of November) where we had Korean chefs cook different types of Korean cuisines. We also had a 7-man band, all the way from Korea that performed that day. Our own role as Korean Cultural Centre is to showcase Korea culture like Korean language and every other thing that concerns Korea.
We also have scholarship programmes which we hold for students who wish to go and study in Korea, both for postgraduate and undergraduate courses. We just rounded up the undergraduate scholarship. We had two candidates who were successful out of more than 80 applicants. By January or February (2019) we will start the process for the post-graduate programme.
What is the language of instruction for those students?
It depends on the students. We have courses where they speak English throughout. But then there are also courses where the language is Korea. In such cases, the Nigerian student will have to study the Korean language for one full year before their courses commence. Some students become proficient in the language in 6 months and then start their 4-year program.
The scholarship is fully funded – flight cost, accommodation, feeding, health services, and more.
In terms of arts and crafts, what would you say Korea is known for?
Korea is known for so many things – for these masks (on display here), for hand dolls, and their costumes. The Korean costume is one that has survived for centuries, even though a lot of people are wearing jeans and modern types of clothes. Some of our staff members wear these clothes when they come to the office (at the Korean Embassy in Abuja here).
We had expected to see Koreans when we were approaching the Korean stand but we did not. Rather, here we are, speaking to a Nigerian – Chiamaka Ibebunjo. What happened?
You know the expo started on Saturday. Our Korean staff members were here on the opening day, but they had other works to do at the Embassy and so that’s why I am here. But I am sure they will be here on Saturday 24 November for the closing ceremony.
How did you acquire this deep knowledge of Korea we are witnessing in you; is it by formal study or by mere association with Koreans?
I would say it’s by association. When I started working with them I realized that I needed to know as much as I can about Korea. Besides that, I have always been interested in Asian countries even before I started working with them. I have always loved their culture, especially their movies; you know we women love movies. So, getting an opportunity to work with them was like a dream come true. The dream will be completed when I finally join them over there in South Korea.
Oh, so you have the intention to go there?
Yes I would like to.
Is it for your post-graduate course or something else?
Well, I have done my masters already in the United Kingdom, may be for a PhD.
What course did you do in your Masters?
I did Human Resource Management.
You said that these Korean Arts & Crafts products here are not for sale. What do you think Nigeria has benefited by Korea’s presence in this expo?
South Korea, Nigeria, and other participating countries have learned from one another and shared their different cultures and crafts. There has also been a lot of networking.