Israeli and Korean stars celebrate 60th anniversary of joint diplomatic relations

  (photo credit: israeli embassy in Korea)
(photo credit: israeli embassy in Korea)

“Korea is on the eastern edge of Asia,” says Israeli Ambassador to Korea, Akiva Tor. “Israel is on the opposite end, 8,000 kilometers apart.” Yet, despite the distance, and the fact that the two countries do not share a common ethnicity or culture, Tor points out that there are many similarities. “Both peoples are very ancient, and they both experienced catastrophic events in the 20th century,” he explains. “Like Israelis, Koreans consider themselves a people of destiny and live with a feeling of great antiquity. And like Israel, they overcame terrible hardship to establish a thriving, modern state.”

With this spirit in mind, marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Israeli embassy in Korea sponsored the creation of a music video that featured renowned Korean and Israeli artists filmed on location in Masada, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Celebrating both the antiquity and innovation of both countries, Israeli jazz musician Daniel Zamir and soul vocalist, Ester Rada, performed with Korean Pansori singer Yul Hee Kim and geomungo player Yoon Jeong Heo, in Missing Here, a love song written by Daniel Zamir, that expresses hope for what can be in the future.

Ambassador Tor describes the genesis of the project. “Korean culture is a very ancient culture, but there is a class of artists who are bringing it into new, more modern musical forms. They are taking Pansori songs that are centuries old, but they are turning them into something very dynamic. Yul Hee Kim is one of the people who is doing that. We have a similar phenomenon in Israel, with piyyutim – ancient liturgical poems – being reworked into modern songs. We thought we could help these artists communicate and create something with each other.”

Yul Hee Kim, the Korean Pansori singer, sang the words to the song in Hebrew, though she switched to Korean at one point, in the traditional Pansori style. Yoon Jeong Heo is one of Korea’s most important and talented geomungo players and brought authentic Korean music to the production. The geomungo is a traditional Korean plucked zither with bridges and frets that has been used since the 5th century.

“The video expresses something very deep,” says Ambassador Tor. “There is an inherent synergy and connectivity between our cultures which these artists managed to show in what they did.” Tor adds that the Israeli embassy in Korea is one of the more active embassies and is presenting a program featuring Israeli cultural activities to mark the six decades of diplomatic relations between the two countries throughout the year.

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