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(Yonhap Interview) Choung sees brighter future for Korea-Australia cultural exchanges
SYDNEY, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, on a visit to foster cultural exchanges between South Korea and Australia, said the new Korean Cultural Center here in Sydney should serve as the "window" for exchanges between the two countries.

   "We've set up our base in Australia to really promote Korean culture here," said Choung Byoung-gug in an interview with the Yonhap News Agency on Sunday, local time. The cultural center was to open here Monday.

  
Choung Byoung-gug (Yonhap file photo)


"The Sydney Korean Cultural Center will systematically promote Korean culture in Australia and will serve as the window for cultural exchanges between the two," Choung added.

   The minister said he had met with directors and curators of major museums in Sydney and found out that they had only limited knowledge of Korean culture.

   "To make sure our culture becomes better known in Australia, hopefully the Sydney Korean Cultural center will be the bridge for two-way exchanges," Choung said.

   Aside from Sydney, South Korea operates 16 cultural centers around the world, in countries such as the United States, Japan, Germany, Poland, Kazakhstan and Nigeria. Choung noted that a cultural center in an advanced nation such as Australia should be different in its purpose from one in a developing nation.

   "A cultural center in a developed country like Australia will help highlight differences and unique aspects of Korean culture as opposed to Chinese or Japanese," the minister said. "If we can analyze, through the cultural center, what Australian people want, then we can better help them understand Korean history and culture and further spread Hallyu ('the Korean Wave,' or the popularity of Korean pop culture)."

   Choung said he will also address some discrepancies in the number of tourists between the two countries. While up to 210,000 South Koreans travel to Australia each year, about 120,000 Australians visit South Korea. The minister said he will try to turn Seoul into the top "stopover destination" for Australians traveling to Europe, surpassing Hong Kong or Tokyo.

   After Sydney, he will fly to London to attend the SportAccord Convention, a gathering of leaders of international sports federations. PyeongChang, a South Korean alpine town bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics, is scheduled to give a presentation on Thursday.

   PyeongChang came up short in two previous Winter Games bids. Choung said the town has learned its lessons and there's "no room for mistakes" in the bidding race.

   "We've been on the right track so far," he said. "But there are many more hurdles to clear, including the SportAccord presentation and the technical presentation (at the International Olympic Committee headquarters) in Lausanne, Switzerland, in May."

   PyeongChang is up against Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France. The host city will be decided at the IOC General Assembly in Durban, South Africa, on July 6.

   In his capacity as tourism minister, Choung has also backed efforts to help the scenic southern resort island of Jeju win international recognition as a leading natural site.

   Jeju is among 28 candidates vying for a spot as one of the "New7Wonders of Nature," a project launched by the Switzerland-based New7Wonders Foundation.

   The finalists include the Grand Canyon of the United States, the Black Forest of Germany, Halong Bay of Vietnam and Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Winners will be declared on Nov. 11 after online and phone voting.

   Choung said he was buoyed by the fact that Jeju has enjoyed the biggest increase in support over the last two months and he is looking forward to positive "synergy effects" if Jeju is picked as one of the seven wonders.

  (END)
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