Right from the start your DIPLOMACY correspondent realized that this would be a special event. The newly-appointed Korean Ambassador to Israel, His Excellency Lee Gun-tae, greeted his guests warmly, but without a doubt it was his gracious wife, Mrs. Won-ock Youn, together with the spouses of other high-ranking Korean diplomats on the receiving line, who stole the show in their elegant and outstandingly beautiful national-costume dresses.
The Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv was the chosen setting for the celebration of the Korean National Foundation Day. The colorful elegance of the Korean costumes was showcased against the sophistication of the guests, including the many diplomatic military attaches, Israeli army VIPS and heads of the Israel Police. Guests were treated to fine dinner, where the waiters added to the grace of the evening dressed in dinner dress suits, bowties and all.
Among the many VIPs and diplomatic representatives were MK Yair Shamir, Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Mr. Ami H. Orkaby, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Eitan Haber, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Vered Pear Swid, Director General, Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women at the Prime Minister's Office, Asher Ben Artzi of the International Police Association, Superintendent Yonatan Zilberman, Israel Police Diplomatic Coordinator, Avi Uhr, Corporate Sales Manager of Fattal Hotels, and many others from Israel's society and commercial scene.
Ambassador Lee Gun-tae addressed the guests after a beautiful rendition of the Korean and Israeli national anthems. He reminded us that the actual date of the celebration falls in October, but as he – the host – only took up his appointment as the newest Korean ambassador to Israel just a few weeks before, the party was delayed.
The ambassador pointed out the many similarities between Korea and Israel, including that both were established in 1948, and both have become "models of economic development and mature democracy for many developing countries". He mentioned the excellent bi-lateral and economic relations between the two countries, noting too that many Israelis drive Korean cars and enjoy Korean consumer goods in their homes. Korean Air remains the only airline offering direct regular service to Israel from far-off East Asia. In conclusion, His Excellency warmly thanked the guests for attending and helping celebrate the occasion, and proposed a toast to "the long-lasting friendship between the two countries".
MK Yair Shamir responded on behalf of the State of Israel. He opened by extending sincere congratulations to the Republic of Korea and the Ambassador on his new appointment. He too touched on the similarities between the two countries – mentioning that both lacked natural resources and are located in "difficult" geo-political areas – and on the warm and long-lasting bilateral relations ever since diplomatic ties were established in in 1962.
Mr. Shamir generously praised the Republic of Korea for its successes. He also pointed out that Israel had immediately sent humanitarian aid to Korea after the ferry disaster a few years ago, and as an aside, that many Korean tourists visit and enjoy Israel. The Minister said that both Israel and Korea look forward to ever-improving diplomatic and commercial relations. He ended his address by asking the ambassador to extend best wishes from the government and people of Israel, to the Republic of Korea and its people.
The evening was rounded out by an energetic and appealing performance by young Israeli artists – a performance that put new meaning on: "you're only as old as you feel".
Photos by Silvia G. Golan