Sancheong-gun, Wednesday 4 May 2011. If I sometimes go on about the unique attractions of Sancheong County, at the foot of Jirisan in Gyeongsangnam-do, my sentiments are genuinely meant. The history, scenery, culture and special geomantic energy of the place all deserve frequent mention.
But there’s an additional reason why I might mention Sancheong. For I am now a Goodwill Ambassador for the county, an honour which I share with veteran singers Jang Eun-sook (장은숙) and Jo Hang-jo (조항조). And I have a certificate to prove it.
The responsibilities of being a goodwill ambassador are hard to define and as far as I can tell, open-ended. When I read last year, for example, that Kim Yuna was a goodwill ambassador for the G20 summit, that appointment seemed to be time-limited. But goodwill ambassador for a county…?
I’m not sure whether my own particular honour is in anticipation of future services or in recognition of the past (namely several chapters devoted to the county in Royal Ancestors and Ancient Remedies. In fact, the Ancient Remedies part of the title is all about the traditional herbal medicine I came across in Sancheong).
I didn’t have to sign anything or agree any terms and conditions. And being goodwill ambassador for Sancheong will not stop me saying nice things about other parts of Korea. I’m sure the good people of Sancheong will tell me if I’m not doing a good enough job for them.
My first responsibility as goodwill ambassador was to assist in the opening ceremony for this year’s Herbal Medicine Festival. I was one of about 10 or 15 dignitaries lighting a flame to declare the festival open. My second responsibility was to participate in a little tableau on stage. I was meant to be a mountain goblin, and had to wave a magic club. But the scariest thing was having to read some very long Korean words. This was scary for me because, having only attended fewer than 20 Korean classes, I wouldn’t say that reading Korean is one of my strong points. If I’d had a couple of hours to rehearse it I would have been fine, but I didn’t. I was told earlier in the day, and there wasn’t any spare time during the day to practice. So I fretted all day about making a monumental fool of myself, and I wasn’t very good company until after the evening ceremony. And in fact I wasn’t very good company even then, because I did make a monumental fool of myself, though everyone was very polite about my stumbling efforts.
I was told that my few lines of Korean were about the efficacy of herbal bean paste in treating the many ailments associated with old age, Sancheong herbal bean paste being especially efficacious in this regard. I think I also promised generally to do my best in promoting Sancheong County. For those interested, here’s what I had to say:
이것이 현대인의 성인병에 좋고 음식을 맛있게 해주는 것으로 소문난 한방된장이군요. 산청의 명품 약초로 발효시켰다고하니 효험이 끝내주겠군요. 나 필립 고먼은 앞으로 이 한방된장과 약초도깨비방망이로 군민들이 무병장수하고 활력이 넘치도록 최선을 다해 힘 쓰겠습니다.
In my view, any oath sworn while waving a dokkaebi’s magic club is null and void, but I nevertheless feel bound to be generally well-disposed towards Sancheong County within the overall confines of LKL’s editorial independence. Which I would be anyway in as a result of the kindness shown by my friends there.