Sunday, March 11, 2012

Envoy builds on multiculturalism

Paraguayan envoy here has lent a helping hand to Korea becoming a multicultural country by donating national cultural items from his South American homeland for display at Seoul’s only museum dedicated to promoting multiculturalism.

Paraguayan Ambassador to Korea Ceferino Valdez donated numerous Paraguayan cultural items, including nanduti, to the eponymous Multiculture Museum, Wednesday.

Whether “melting pot” or “salad bowl,” Korea has been, over the past decade or so, opening up to the world. In existence for about three years, the Multiculture Museum opened in Bulgwang-dong last year.

“I think it is very important what he is doing with this museum, teaching the Korean public about multiculturalism, about many people from all over the world,” Valdez said.

The museum is the brainchild of Kim Yoon-tae, the museum’s director. He saw a need for a center that would help raise awareness of the peoples and cultures around the world in Korea.

As Kim saw it, people from dozens of countries are coming here to live, work and study, and but the public lacked sufficient understanding of the larger world.

The museum builds what Kim and Valdez believe is needed understanding through culture multicultural classes for children at the museum and by sending “multicultural emissaries,” usually foreign students here, to local schools to present tutorials, and by having special luncheons.

“I met Mr. Kim through Paraguyan students because he hired them to raise awareness about Paraguayan culture among the Korean public,” Valdez said at the museum when he donated the Paraguayan cultural items. “Then I visited the museum with my wife.”

The Guampa and bombilla were donated by the Valdez. A Guampa is a traditional drinking vessel made from cow horns and handcrafted silver om which to drink yerba mate through the straw-like bombilla. Yerba mate is a delicious caffeinated tea wildly enjoyed in Paraguay.

The museum will now also have Paraguayan currency to display, donated by Veronica Lopez, student in Korea and sister of Adriana. Valdez also donated a pancho, children’s books and a statue of kurupi, an important figure in Guarani mythology well known for his his enormous prehensile male appendage.

“The most important thing is that he is teaching children here about cultures of people around the world,” Valdez said.

Nanduti is a traditional Paraguayan embroidered lacework. The examples of Nanduti that the museum will display were donated by Adriana Lopez, 2nd secretary at the Paraguayan Embassy. The name means “spider web” in Guarani, the official, indigenous language of Paraguay. Multicultural classes are available for children daily at the museum.

Today a class on Japanese culture is offered. Tuesday French, Wednesday Nigerian Thursday Colombia and Friday Polish. Class subject are subject to change. For more information about the classes and the museum, check out

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