Connecting the two Countries
Arab Culture Village
ARAB CULTURE VILLAGE
A Thought on the Establishment of ‘Arab Cultural Village’ in Korea to announce Byeokrando as Arab’s hometown
The world we are now living in is suffering from uncertainty of global economy, clash of geopolitics and dramatic changes of business environment. Issues of war, terrorism, refugee, youth unemployment are major homework for all of us. I believe the solution to all these issues lies within our long history.
Shilla dynasty of Korea made contact with Arabs through sea-route silk-road one thousand years ago, cultivating remarkable culture. Every global nations need to blend into an international society. One should share their civilization while protecting their own culture. Not a single nation can stand alone by themselves in this ubiquitous world.
Korea is the country which can connect Eurasia and the Sea, where Korea can be the focal point. The breakdown of socialism was possible not by realist, but through literary imagination. Internet has turned the world into one single global village. Arabian Peninsula has sacred location with splendid cultural heritage, based on trade route to every nation through camels and ships.
Chairman of Korea-Saudi Friendship Society (KSFS) wishes to extend such thoughts and vision with those who believe in literary imagination and with those has high aspiration for better future.
1. Historical Background
The trade between Korea and Arab dates back to the era of Unified Silla Dynasty (676-935). Jang Bogo(787-846), also known as the ‘King of the Seas’ or ‘King of Trade’, were involved in international trade with Arab and China at Ulsan and Wando. He rose to prominence in international trade in the late Unified Silla period as a powerful maritime figure who for several decades effectively controlled the West Sea (Yellow Sea) and Korean coast.
During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), there was a concentration village of Arab people who were engaged in commerce on Byeokrando (harbor) in North Korea, 2km off Ganghwa County. At some point, the Yuan Dynasty in China (1215-1294) invited a large number of Arabs proficient in various range of trade and commerce and entrusted them with the task of imposing taxes. This led to an influx of Arabs—estimated at around one million people—into China. As tax imposition was akin to exploiting the Chinese, the Arabs living in China later relocated to the land of Goryeo(Korea) to enjoy better living conditions.
Around that time, an Arab who was a close acquaintance of a Goryeo Dynasty king was endowed with a Korean family name, ‘Deoksu Jang’. Those with the same family name are estimated to be around 40,000 people in South Korea and about 100,000 people in Korea. However, some Arabs settled down without any Korean family names. Considering that Arab culture favors having many children, the descendants of Arabs on the Korean peninsula are now estimated at approximately five million people.
In recognition of such historical background, KSFS would like to explore deeper into the background of contacts made between the two cultures through opening a seminar, in partnership with the Arab and Korea academic community. This Arab-Korean projects will be implemented in collaboration with the 2.5 million Korean construction workers who were involved in large-scale construction projects in Saudi Arabia back in the 1970s and the Deoksu Jang clan.
Chairman Lee emphasizes that, “Together, efforts will be made to preserve and develop the openness, diversity, and dynamic history of Arab culture and carry out series of projects to strengthen mutual relations.”
2. Objectives of ‘Arab Cultural Village’
1) Re-discover the spirit of Arab merchants: Openness, Diversity and Dynamism
▷ Infrastructure: Mosque, museum, gallery, library and etc. for Arab arts
▷ Contents: Arab traditional cultural festivals and events
▷ Knowledge: ‘Nomad Forum’, as convergence of nomadic and agrarian cultures
2) Promote peace and prosperity through Ganghwa County as a global business hub, creating and strengthening civilian-level business ties
▷ Make partnership with universities and hospitals, creating specialization and professionals. Collaboration program include research on MERS, diseases for senior people, promotion of convalescence and healthcare
▷ Build recreation home for the Saudi VIPs, villa complex and mud flats at coastal area near Ganghwa County
▷ Create ‘Peace Village’ for the descendants of Arabs who lived on Byeokrando and the descendants of Deoksu Jang which is estimated to be ten million.
▷ Establish ‘Arab Business Support Center’ to promote trade, employment and job training.
▷ Construct history museum to educate young generation of both culture and to commemorate those who contributed to large-scale construction projects in Saudi Arabia
▷ Hold regular two-way business opportunity forum, continuing momentum of ‘Korea-Saudi Business Forum 2014’. (KSFS and Saudi government co-hosted the first business opportunity forum in Seoul with 200 participating firms)
3. Next Step
▷ Hold a seminar to seek out Korean-Arab ancestors in Seoul early 2016
▷ Promote ‘Arab Cultural Village’ initiatives in collaboration with Incheon Metropolitan City, Ganghwa County and the Arab Countries (in areas of culture, religion, education, etc.)
▷ Promote participation by the Deoksu Jang clan, Korean Medieval History Society, CSC, KSU, KACST, STCA and private companies
▷ Promotion of idea through Korean-Saudi Newsletter articles and the Arab News
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