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Italian Embassy, History & Culture Salon Society Mark Leonardo da Vinci 500 Anniversary
Prof. Francesco Canganella (right), counsellor of Science and Technology at the Italian Embassy in Seoul, with Mr. Lee Bong-Won, at the Royal Hotel in Myeong-dong in downtown Seoul on Dec. 13, 2019.

On Dec.13 (Friday), 2019 a special event took place which united Korean culture and Italian culture in celebrating two important anniversaries. On the one hand the 100th meeting of the History and Culture Salon Society and on the other, the closure of the public celebrations of the 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

The meeting took place at the Royal Hotel in Myeong-dong and saw the participation of some prominent Korean guests such as Kim Byung-Il (former Minister of the Ministry of Planning and Budget), Huh Shin-Haeng (former Minister of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Rural Policies). The Italian Embassy was represented by 1st Sec. Yaroslava Romanova and Prof. Francesco Canganella, science and technology counsellor of the embassy.

The History and Culture Salon Society was founded in September 2011 with the aim of encouraging discussion and understanding of cultural aspects within Korean society, as well as its history and evolution. Mr. Hong Duck-Hwa, founder of the Society, felt at that time the need to launch an Italian/French-like "salon" where all can share ideas and harmonize in art and culture beyond the difference of political position.

500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci

During its brief but intense history, this cultural association also saw the participation of foreign guests as speakers in order to learn more about cultural aspects of particular interest from other countries.

The evening, which also saw the participation of some representatives of the Italian community in Seoul, was largely dedicated to the anniversary for Leonardo da Vinci thanks to the speech delivered by Prof. Francesco Canganella on the legacy between Leonardo and Italian excellence in the aerospace research and development.

The Italian Government and the Italian Embassy look at the Republic of Korea as a major partner in Scientific cooperation. That is the reason why the Italian Embassy in Seoul has an Office dealing with Science and Technology, and this is why so many efforts have been devoted in the present year to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci. The Office of Science and Technology, among the many different activities on bilateral cooperation, in 2019 organized special lectures and visits focused on Leonardo da Vinci by three universities, five public schools, and other cultural institutions.

Following history and cultural traditions, Italy always believed in a multidisciplinary approach, and especially in scientific research this path has been followed since ever. On this regard, the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death was one of the pillar within activities in 2019 for the Italian Embassy. His genius and his firm belief that science and humanities are not mutually exclusive fit well with the Italian general approach to the development of knowledge.

For more than a century the salon as a gathering to exchange ideas has been a footnote of the history of ideas. With the advent of truly mass media this exchange had first been democratized, then in rapid and parallel changes diluted, radicalized, toned down, turned up, upside and down again. It has only been recently that a new trend emerged recalling those afternoons of social gatherings in Paris, Venice, Vienna, Berlin or Weimar, where streams of thought turned into tides of history, where refined social gatherings of the cultured elites became the engine of the Enlightenment.

Prof. Francesco Canganella (4th from right in front row), counsellor of Science and Technology at the Italian Embassy in Seoul, posess with other participants.

The salon is still regarded as a mysterious world of thoughts and ideas, a world in which the participants soon were entitled to the role of historical figures in history books. In the early days of the salon culture these meetings were incubators of new ideas as well as the first form of an urban culture.

After the first salons were formed in Paris in the early 17th century, in all major cities in Europe soon it was common for ladies of high society to gather influential thinkers around them. With rational thinking of the Enlightenment, the reputation enjoyed by a person was then measured in terms of intellect, not status or wealth. Berlin, Vienna, Venice and Florence were established, next to Paris, as cities of culture of the salon.

At the same time England developed the first coffee house culture. In 1650, the first English cafe, called Grand Café, opened in Oxford. The open structure of the cafés had a tremendous effect on the culture of debate, but so did coffee and tea, the new drinks from the colonies. The stimulant of caffeine acted as fertilizer for the raising of novel ideas and discussions. But it was mostly the lounges and cafes in Europe, Venice is for sure one of them, that gave birth to the fundamental principle of progress and innovation, namely the network.

No wonder that the nostalgia for these meetings between big thinkers is so strong today. This nostalgia fits perfectly in an age when the mass media abandon models of publications and programs to turn into networks with an infinite number of nodes. Facebook, Twitter and countless blogs and forums perfectly simulate this exciting exchange of ideas for an audience of billions. But with no doubts real interaction and physical gatherings of people still can find his own spot as well as his remarkable role in our society.

The whole event held on Dec 13th was a great success and 85 people attended. The gathering was also gladdened by music and dance entertainment by the performances of dancer Kim Youngsoon, musician Kim Myungsun, pianist Shin Myung-jin, singers Kim Jeong-ah, soprano, and Kim Jin-woo, Baritone, respectively.



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