Having followed the French school system, I have always been taught that the first book ever printed is the Gutenberg Bible in 1455.
It is almost 15 years later that I learn by entering at VANK as an intern that this information does not reflect the historical reality, and that our vision of history is Eurocentric.
The Jikji was printed in Korea almost 80 years before Gutenberg printed a copy of the Bible in Europe.
I think it is very important that the citizens of the world recognize Jikji as a cultural heritage that, like Gutenberg, has contributed to shaping modern society.
The Jikji is now preserved at the BNF in Paris, it has never been exhibited in an exhibition.
France, having bought it from Korea 130 years ago does not have the ambition to return it to Korea, considering the document as “part of the common heritage of humanity” and therefore not belonging to any country.
Yet I think that giving back Jikji to Korea and promoting it to its true value is essential for Korean people to come together around a cultural identity that is the essence of a nation.
What kind of activities have you participated in telling Jikji to the world?
With other VANK youth leaders, we created a video about Jikji in French and uploaded it on VANK Youtube channel (youtu.be/7m28gldwEtw). I hope my video could be well-introduce Jikji to French people.
Also, I visited French portal sites and searched for relevant data about Jikji. If they did not fully reflect historic facts, I have sent them some introductory data, and if the site describes ‘Gutenberg bible is the first book(printed with movable metal type)’, I sent mails of request to correct the errors.
On Wikipedia, the most viewed encyclopedia by students worldwide, Jikji was not that much introduced compared to Gutenberg Bible, so I added more description about Jikji.
Also, as I speak Italian, I added information about Jikji on Italian Wikipedia too.
As VANK has created a web site that introduces Jikji in French, Jikji will be introduced to French people as a representative culture of Korea.
On the VANK French web site, not only Jikji will be shown, but the number of French tourists visiting Korea, Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Seodaemun Prison History Hall, comparison of Korean history and French history, Comfort Women issue, Germany and Japan’s attitude toward the past, Korean freedom fighters, the reason we should know about Korean history and culture, and the history of Hangeul will also be introduced.
Have you ever learned Korean history and culture in France?
In France and Italy, what I only have learned about Korea was the Japanese colonial rule and the Korean war. European textbooks describe Korea as victims of other countries’ invasions. But after joining VANK, I have learned that 2 million Koreans did participate in such a historic event like the March 1st Movement. Isn’t it amazing?
So, I will translate the Proclamation of Korean Independence in Italian and upload it on VANK web site.