First lady Kim Keon-hee hosts spouses’ program at Korea-Africa Summit

To promote traditional Korean culture and continue exchanges

By Diplomacy Journal Lee Kap-soo


First lady Kim Keon-hee hosted the Korea-Africa Summit Spouses’ Program at the Blue House on June 4. The event was organized by Mrs. Kim to invite the spouses of the heads of state of the 13 African countries visiting Korea for the Korea-Africa Summit to share Korean traditional culture and continue exchanges.

In her remarks at the luncheon, Mrs. Kim said, “Korea has experienced miraculous growth in a short period of time after rising from the ashes of war more than 60 years ago, and Africa is also gaining global attention as the fastest-growing continent. This is the first time in Korea's history that we have invited so many African leaders to discuss the future.”  



Kim emphasized that Korea and Africa have a lot in common culturally and emotionally, and that it is because they share the “motherly emotion” of sacrifice and strength for their children that they have been able to overcome historical pain, such as war and colonization, and develop rapidly.


“I know that Africa's primitive art has influenced many modern artists, including expressionist abstract art,” Kim said, adding, “I believe that Africa has the potential to become a center of global economic and cultural development in the future, just as it has led modern art.”


In closing, Kim thanked the heads of state and their spouses for their participation in the meaningful event, and said, “I hope that Korea and Africa will use this opportunity to strengthen friendship and continue active exchange and cooperation.”



The African heads of state expressed their gratitude for Mrs. Kim's invitation and their hope to learn from Korea's development experience. They also expressed their deep interest in Mrs. Kim's social activities, including climate change, animal protection, and children's rights, in which she has been active, and expressed their hope that people in Africa and around the world will join her in her work.

After the luncheon, a joint Korean-African pansori performance was held. Myeongchang Min Hye-sung, a master of the national intangible heritage pansori heungbo, and Mapo Lor, a Cameroonian-born Frenchman and student of Min Hye-sung, performed together with Choi Hyun-dong, a master of the pansori technique.


Prosthetic artist Seok Chang-woo, who overcame the pain of losing his arm in an accident, used the Pan-African color scheme of black, red, green, yellow, and blue to create a croquis depicting a group of people cycling in the same direction. Seok concluded his performance by writing the optimistic words, “Drawing a future with Korea and Africa together.

After the spouses' program, Mrs. Kim had a tea with the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio, at Gyeongbokgung Palace. The meeting was organized at the request of the Sierra Leonean side on the occasion of the Korea-Africa Summit.


Gyeongbokgung Palace, the venue of the tea chat, is a representative cultural heritage that provides a glimpse into Korea's royal culture. In particular, Gyeonghoeru, where the walkway is located, was chosen by Mrs. Kim, the Honorary Chairperson of the Korea Visit Year, to showcase Korea's sophistication, style, and charm to Africa. Mrs. Bio marveled at the beauty of Gyeonghoeru and thanked Mrs. Kim for her hospitality during the luncheon, which was followed by a tea ceremony.


“I know that First Lady Kim has always been interested in women's and children's human rights issues and has been doing a lot of activities, and I can see that she is sincere in her work,” said Mrs. Bio, “I wanted to meet with her to discuss the issues of women's and children's human rights.”


In particular, Ms. Bio cited the prevalence of sexual violence against women and early marriage in Sierra Leone, and said she is working to build a public hospital to provide a safe home for these girls. “On July 2, we will be opening the hospital, and we are inviting other First Ladies to join us to campaign for the protection of women and children from sexual violence and early marriage,” she said, adding, “I would love for you to be there.”


“I deeply sympathize with the seriousness of the issue of sexual violence against women, early marriage, and human trafficking in Sierra Leone,” said Mrs. Kim. “Mrs. Bio herself suggested it, and I will actively consider whether there is anything I can do to help, if there is any support needed.” “We should continue to interact and work together to solve this problem together,” she added.


After the meeting, Kim and Bio took a walk around Gyeonghoeru and talked freely, with Kim letting Bio go first before leaving.