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2018 Fellowship for Textbook Specialists of Costa Rica

Korean culture experience

Photo-Ana Lidia Ordóñez Sequeira
Ana Lidia Ordóñez Sequeira
Editor-in-Chief of Santillana Publishing, Society Division
In early June, Editorial Santillana received an invitation from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Costa Rica for a delegate to participate in a meeting to learn about Korean culture. I was selected to attend this event, therefore all the corresponding arrangements were made.

On October 26th, the three participants left for the Encounter on Korean Culture addressed to Costa Rican specialists in school textbooks. We were: master Anabelle Venegas from the Ministry of Public Education of Costa Rica, Dr. Edgar Solano Muñoz, dean of the Guanacaste campus of the University of Costa Rica and the master Ana Ordóñez Sequeira from Editorial Santillana. We arrived at Incheon International Airport on October 28th at 6 a.m. On our arrival we were welcomed by researcher Hye-jung Park and translator Eun-jung Lee, excellent hosts for our entire visit in Korea.

We immediately headed to the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). This institution offers postgraduate studies (masters and doctorates) related to Korea. During the morning we were given free time and I took the opportunity to tour AKS facilities. The natural landscape was dazzling by the colors of the leaves of autumn trees. I visited the library and the archive. In the library they have Santillana's secondary school textbooks from other Latin American countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador. In the archive they conserve several old documents.

At noon we we could see the Hawseong fortress which we visited afterwards. The fortress is cultural heritage of humanity and is beautiful. The fortress is surrounded by a wall. The buildings were reconstructed thanks to architectural designs rescued from the past. Fortresses and palaces have four gates, one at each cardinal point. Then we went to the Hanok Technology Exhibition Hall. There we learned how Korean homes were built, from the Neolithic to the present day. Hanok is a traditional Korean house. Today, few are built because of the high cost of materials. In addition, we had the opportunity to make a cardboard hanok, which I keep with great appreciation.

The seminar began on Monday 29 October. The first one was by Mrs. Venegas. She presented her paper on the educational system of Costa Rica. The conference was broad and very informative. Mr. Sa-hun Kim then gave a presentation on the Korean education system. It was very interesting to establish the similarities and differences between the two countries.

At noon, we were invited to a welcome lunch. We had the opportunity to taste Korean food, which I enjoyed very much. In the afternoon, three exhibitions were presented, the first one was made by me about Santillana and how the subject of Korea is approached in the textbooks. Santillana's history, how textbooks are made and in what year and how the issue of the Korean War is addressed in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama were all explained. Korean academics are interested in the possibility of adding more Korean content to Santillana's textbooks.

The next speaker was Mr. Edgar Solano Muñoz whose lecture was about how the University of Costa Rica deals with the topic of Korea. The day ended with an exhibition by Hye-jung Park on Korean content included in school textbooks from various countries. In this exhibition, examples of two Santillana's houses (Guatemala and Ecuador) that have introduced in their textbooks aspects of Korea such as legends and geographical and historical data were presented.

On Tuesday, October 30, we had the opportunity to meet the An Byung uk, the president of Academy, who was very happy with our visit. The opportunity to talk with the president and exchange impressions from both countries was very interesting. Then, we listened to several presentations about Korea's history, culture and current events. All three exhibits were filled with valuable information. On a personal level, the last exhibition was very dynamic and informative about South Korea and North Korea. Unfortunately, in Costa Rica we received little information and much of it is biased or limited about the Korean problem.

On Wednesday, October 31st, we left for Gyengju in the SRT express train. We read that it reaches speeds of 293 kilometers per hour. During the train ride, I could see the beautiful landscape of Korea such as mountains, crops, lagoons, buildings and bridges.

When we arrived in Gyengju, we went to the historical areas that are part of the cultural heritage of humanity. We went to a cemetery where several kings of the Silla dynasty were buried. We learned about how kings were buried, with what objects, and how tombs were made. There you can see the hills that are the kings' tombs. The larger the hills, the more extensive the power of the king. In addition, we saw the world's oldest astronomical observatory, 9.17 meters high, which was surrounded by flowers of different colors that beautify the place. In addition, we observed several people in the typical Korean costume, which is very colorful and elegant.

After lunch, we headed to the Seokguram Grotto of the main Buddha, from the year 751, also a cultural heritage of humanity. To reach this place we walked a beautiful trail and climbed a few steps. The Buddha was not allowed to be photographed because it is an original piece. From the highest part of the place you could see the Donghae. The Seokguram Grotto is the masterpiece of the golden age of the Silla dynasty and reflects the high standard achieved by this kingdom in architecture, mathematics, religion and art. Then we headed to Bulguksa temple, Buddhist goddess, cultural heritage of humanity. Its buildings and surroundings are beautiful and colorful.

On Thursday, November 1st, we went to Busan, located in southeastern Korea. Our first stop was at the UN Memorial Cemetery for those killed in the Korean War (1950-1953). There we watched a documentary about the war and went to several rooms where there were photos, maps and objects of that time. In the center of the place, there are flags from the 21 countries that participated in the war and lost soldiers, who rest in the place. The second site we visited was the Haedong Yonggung Temple in Kijang-gun. There, can look at Donghae.

Then we toured Busan, a very productive port area in Korea. We then went to the provisional government building in the capital, and then to the Provisional Capital Memorial Hall, which was used during the Korean War as the Presidential House of Korea's first president. Next we headed towards Gamcheon Villa, a large old town with many colorful houses. Then we went to the Gukje Market of Busan where there was an abundance of seafood and typical food. There I ate a small traditional Korean cake.

On Friday, November 2nd, we headed to the station to take the express train to Seoul. We arrived in Seoul at noon. After lunch, we went to Seoul's largest palace, called the Gyeongbokgung Palace of the Joseon Dynasty. This palace was established in 1395, and is now rebuilt. It has beautiful fortresses and an artificial lake. Each fortress was used for a specific purpose, for example, for the ministers to work or for the king's wives to live in.

Near the palace is the Blue House which is the current presidential house. The roads to the Blue House were surrounded by trees with different colors. Then we went to the Presidents' Museum. There we learned more about the history of Korea and the current Korean president. In the evening, we had the opportunity to see a play. It was a very moving Korean Traditional Art Show that projected the music and colors of Korea.

On Saturday, November 3rd, We visited Jogyesa Temple and it happened to be holding a chrysanthemum flower festival. We then went to visit the Seoul Catholic Church and a food fair, where a Spanish film was being shown outdoors. After lunch, we were given the opportunity to shop. On Sunday, November 4th, we left for Costa Rica.

Finally, I would like to thank Editorial Santillana for having selected me to live this cultural experience in Korea, which has been invaluable. I would also like to express my gratitude to AKS for their attention and opportunities. It has contributed to my personal and professional growth. Knowing about Korea's history, geography, culture, gastronomy, population and current events has allowed me to broaden my knowledge about Korea. In addition, the places we visit complement the information received. This experience will allow us to maintain and strengthen the links established between the Santillana publishing house and AKS.
Photo-2018 Fellowship for Textbook Specialists of Costa Rica

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