The President of the Spanish Government visited the future headquarters of the Cervantes Institute in Seoul (Republic of Korea) on Thursday and inaugurated the remodelling work that will be carried out before the first centre of the institution in the country comes into operation in 2023. Pedro Sánchez stressed that the new centre will help to promote the learning of Spanish at all levels of education and will strengthen cultural relations between the two countries.
The President was accompanied by the Korean Minister of Culture, Park Bo Gyoon; the Spanish Minister of Industry and Tourism, Reyes Maroto; the Secretary General of the Cervantes Institute, Carmen Noguero; the Spanish Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Guillermo Kirkpatrick, and the Secretary General of the Korean Commission for UNESCO, Han Kyung Koo.
The centre, whose creation was approved by the Council of Ministers last Tuesday, occupies the seventh floor of the UNESCO building in Korea, in a central pedestrian street in the capital.
Pedro Sánchez toured the 800-square-metre facility, which will have several classrooms where Spanish will be taught, as well as a library and a teachers' room, among other facilities. The auditorium, located on another floor of the building, will be shared with other institutions.
The director of Cervantes Tokyo, Víctor Andresco, explained to Sánchez the characteristics of the rented premises and, with the plans, the refurbishment work that will be carried out shortly.
The President unveiled a commemorative plaque, provisionally placed on a tripod, which reads: "The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, inaugurated the works of the Instituto Cervantes in the Republic of Korea. Seoul, 17 November 2022".
Sánchez said that the new Instituto Cervantes centre will strengthen the presence of Spanish in the country's education system, where it still has a long way to go to be taught to students of all ages. The interest in learning Spanish and certifying this knowledge is evidenced by the more than two thousand annual DELE Spanish Diploma exams, which "are a good indicator of the interest of Koreans in Spanish" and make Korea the East Asian country with the highest number of these exams per capita, a third more than Japan and a huge distance from China.
The early opening of the centre, he stressed, will also foster Spanish-Korean dialogue and strengthen cultural exchanges with one of the countries that sends the most tourists to Spain each year.
For her part, the Secretary General of the Cervantes Institute welcomed this "exciting moment in which a project so long desired by the Institute is beginning to take shape" and thanked Pedro Sánchez for his support and his presence, which "shows us that the work of our institution is recognised and valued".
Carmen Noguero recalled that Cervantes has a physical presence in 90 cities in 45 countries, and emphasised the close ties that unite Spain and Korea in terms of demographics, trade, tourism, shared democratic values and interest in culture. The new centre, he concluded, will reinforce "the network of cultural relations and mutual knowledge that we at the Instituto Cervantes wish to weave in Korea".
Thursday's symbolic ceremony marks the culmination of the steps taken to provide the Institute with a headquarters in Korea, a long road whose main milestone was the trip that the Director, Luis García Montero, made to Seoul last June, which served to confirm the choice of this location.
The centre reinforces the presence of Cervantes in Korea, where since 2011 it has had a Cervantes Classroom at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, an entity of lower rank than a centre and which depends on the centre in Tokyo (Japan). The Cervantes Classroom offers preparation courses for the DELE Diploma, general Spanish courses, conversation classes, online courses of the Virtual Spanish Classroom (AVE) and training courses for teachers.
Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor.