When you hear the name “Denmark,” what comes to your mind first? Copenhagen, the capital city? Strong social security and welfare? The historical image of the descendants of the Vikings? The toy blocks that both children and adults are crazy about? Top quality milk? The name brings many things to mind, but few would think about Korea-Denmark relations. This is understandable, considering the long distance of over 8,000 kilometers between the two countries and the seeming lack of emotional or other similarities.
But then, the two countries will celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. Isn’t it surprising that their bilateral ties are this old? More surprising is that the two had had a diplomatic agreement even before they established their official relationship. Precisely speaking, the agreement was signed between the Great Korean Empire (1897–1910) and Denmark in 1902. Entitled “Hanjeong Suhotongsang Joyak,” meaning “Korea-Denmark Treaty of Amity and Trade,” the pact officially established bilateral ties. In the treaty’s name, “Han” refers to Korea, while “Jeong” refers to Denmark. At that time, Denmark was written as “丁抹” in Chinese characters and pronounced “Jeongmal” in Korean, hence “Hanjeong” meant ”Korea-Denmark.”
From that time on, the bilateral relations remained rather uneventful until 1951, when Denmark, as a member of the United Nations Forces, dispatched a great number of medics on the hospital ship Jutlandia, six months after the outbreak of the Korean War. After the war ended with a truce, Denmark, together with Sweden and Norway, sent medical personnel to Korea to support the establishment of the National Medical Center, and in 1959, Korea and Denmark officially established diplomatic relations.
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the two countries’ friendship, a series of events will be held. Korean President Moon Jae-in and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark met in Copenhagen last year when President Moon was on a European tour, and the two leaders designated 2019 as the “Year of Mutual Cultural Exchange” and discussed ways to promote an array of exchanges.
Since 2013, the Danish capital has held the Copenhagen Kimchi Festival, and the festivities are expected to be particularly spectacular this year. Though the festival is named after kimchi, it goes far beyond Koreans’ staple side dish and cuisine. It is a large-scale Korean cultural event in Denmark that includes performances, exhibitions and experiences.
In November 2018, an exhibition by world-renowned Korean installation artist Suh Do-ho was opened at the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, an art museum in Denmark’s second-largest city. The exhibition, titled Korridor (Corridor), will continue through mid-February.
There will be a number of commemorative events in Korea, too. Later this year, the KF plans to hold an exhibition at the KF Gallery to highlight Danish animation as part of its Global Bridge program.
All in all, the year 2019 shapes up to confirm that the two countries aren’t quite as distant as it may seem and that they can get even closer in the years ahead.
Written by Kim Daniel