Lecture Video: Czechs and Korea, Koreans and Bohemia

Two countries far apart, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea, share a long history of more than 140 years of interactions. From the times the very first Czechs entered the Korean territory as part of attacking US forces in 1871, the relations between the two nations and countries have been of the highest importance. As the Republic of Korea is now the third largest Czech trade partner outside of Europe (after China and the US, and before Japan), and Korean companies invested almost 2 billion USD in the Czech Republic, 150,000 Korean tourists visited Prague in 2013 and not less than 8 weekly non-stop direct flights connect the main airports of both countries, the cooperation between the two countries is increasing year by year.

But there is also a rich historical past in Czech-Korean relations. The presentation will cover the whole history of the interactions, from the early visits by the Czechs to Korea, to the cooperation between soldiers of the Czechoslovak Legion with Korean independence fighters between 1918-1920, and the creation of Czech Korean studies which started as early as 1943. After the communist coup in 1948, Czechoslovakia became a close ally of North Korea in the 1950s, and the presentation will thus follow the most interesting moments of the cooperation between the two countries. The presentation will then cover the development of knowledge of the Czech Republic in Korea since the 1970s and – indeed – the development of Czech-Korean relations in the last quarter of a century, when the newly democratic Czech Republic established fully-fledged relations with the Republic of Korea, while keeping its Embassy in Pyongyang.

Jaroslav Olša, jr (1964) is the outgoing Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Republic of Korea (since 2008) and author of a series of articles covering a wide range of Czech-Korean relations published in Czech, English and Korean. He earned his MA degree in Asian and African Studies at Charles University, Prague, but studied also in Tunis and Amsterdam. He has published books on African modern art and history and – most recently – edited and authored „1901 photographs of Seoul by Enrique Stanko Vráz and other early Czech travellers´ views of Korea“ (Seoul Museum of History, 2011), „Czech-Korean film encounters“ (Korean Film Archive, 2013) and „The Korean Peninsula after the artistice as seen by Czechoslovak delegates to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission 1953-1956“ (Seoul Museum of History, 2013). His most recent Czech-language book – prepared together with leading Czech Koreanist Miriam Lowensteinová – covers the life and work of early Korean archaeologist, historian and translator of Korean literature of the 1940s, Han Heung-su. Some of Olša´s articles are available at the Czech Embassy´s website www.mzv.cz/seoul.

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