The First Lady seeks to help mend relations with Japan

First Lady Kim Keun-hye, right, and Japanese architect Tadao Ando in this photo taken in 2016. Courtesy of the Presidential Office

The presidential office reveals the exchange of letters between Kim Keun-hee and the Japanese architect

Written by Lee Hye Rin

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s wife, Kim Keun-hee, exchanged New Year messages with famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando and expressed hope that their friendship would pave the way for more exchanges between the two countries, the presidential office said on Sunday.

In a letter sent to the Japanese architect, Kim wrote that she was able to present “the theme of our time” through their previous collaboration. She then suggested that her relations with the Japanese architect could contribute to friendly exchanges between Korea and Japan.

It is known that their relationship began when they worked together on Le Corbusier’s private exhibition at the Seoul Arts Center in 2016.

The First Lady also thanked Ando for the gift he sent her on the occasion of President Yoon’s inauguration last year.

The Japanese architect sent Kim a miniature version of his “Green Apple” installation piece as well as a brochure for his latest project, a sketch containing a photo of the presidential couple and a photo of him and the first lady taken in 2016 while working together.

In response, Ando sent Kim a letter about his impressions of her previous exhibition and sent a letter of gratitude for her understanding and sympathy with his architectural philosophy. He also sent a copy of Samuel Ullmans’s poem “Youth,” which begins with the line: “Youth is not a period of life, but a state of mind.”

The presidential office said the first lady sent the letter on January 1 and received his response four days later.

The world-famous Japanese architect worked as a truck driver and boxer before starting his career as an architect. He won the Pritzker Prize in 1995 and many other prestigious international awards. His major works include the Church of Light (1989) in Osaka and the Water Temple (1991) in Awaji, Japan.

The self-taught architect has an architectural style that emphasizes harmony with nature and the use of empty spaces and enclosed concrete. He has a growing fan base and six of his works are in Korea, including the Sun Museum in Wonju, Gangwon Province, the Bunte Museum on Jeju Island and the Gayeong Cultural Center (JCC) in central Seoul.

*Editor’s note: The Korea Times will photograph the presidential couple as President Yoon Suk-yeol and First Lady Kim Keun-hee starting Monday, at the request of the Cheong Wa Dae.

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