Cultural Exchange


I get thrilled at new experiences, activities and adventure. Exploring a different culture falls in this. Waking up on the 28th day of September evoked a stream of enthusiasm. The Korean Foundation Day celebrations were bound to happen this very day. Known to Koreans as Gaecheonjol, the day is regarded as a public holiday in South Korea. It celebrates the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333BC. This date  has traditionally been regarded as the date for the founding of Korean nation. It is held on 3rd October and so the Kenyan event was a wee bit ahead.

The invitation read a lunch reception. Driving down the winding roads of Lavington estate, bypassing the lush green environment, quiet and serene, was calming as it was surreal. We got to Ambassador Kim Young Dae’s residence around 12.

The gate was guarded by men in pristine suits. Ladies in formal milled around, flashing smiles that were interspersed with bows and a string of greetings.  Along the entrance broad way carpet, the ambassador stood in high spirits as he shook our hands firmly, accompanied by other hosts  in sparkling traditional Korean attires, the hanboks. The place was full with all manner of important people: Ambassadors, corporate leads, ministry officials down to students. More were still streaming in. Banter roared. Laughter followed. The place was full of excitement.


The day was warmly opened by Dasrum, an all-Female Korean Music Ensemble. Dressed in Korean regalia, they took it up and started playing their orchestra bound numbers. The music was soothing. Many inched closer and pulled out their phones to capture the moments. Some danced along. Others listened intently. The feeling could not be  bottled up. Not that easily. Soon, the session came to a halting end and ushered in the national anthems: Korean and Kenyan.

The Korean Ambassador delivered   his speech highlighting the robust bilateral relations between Kenya and the Republic of Korea. Notable were his remarks on the ongoing cooperation in the construction of KAIST in Kenya, an institution that steadily contributed to Korea’s great economic growth.  Mrs. Stella Munya, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, later took to the podium and reiterated the continued   mutual ties between Kenya and Korea, labeling Korea as a dependable and true friend. We then tossed to the mutual friendship.

Around one, we were all invited to the lunch reception. The menu ran a gamut of Korean staples, fruits, local and international cuisine. We lined up and stuffed our plates full. I tried Korean rice cake, kimbap, a shrimp and the tantalizing   pork ribs. The bites and the rising interactions were worth every minute. While at it, I chatted up a Korean lady who, to my surprise, had a good mastery of Swahili. How symbolic of the growing cultural exchange between Korea and Kenya?

I drove out of the residence with satisfaction and contentment, looking forward to more Korea-Kenya cultural exchange activities.

Cheers to Korea- Kenya relations!

Story by Anne Achieng

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