British Council Korea Director Martin Fryer is symbol of cultural exchange between Korea and the U.K. This reporter met him at the council located in central Seoul, where Fryer was wearing shirts he brought from his country and necktie he bought in Korea. "Korean people and I are pretty much of the same build, and perhaps that is why Korean clothes suit me very well."
Since becoming director of the British Council Korea in September 2013, Fryer is having the busiest days this year. The "2017-2018 Korea-.U.K. Mutual Exchange: The U.K. Year in Korea" event that began in February has passed its half point before ending in March next year. During the past six months, Fryer has been touring all parts of the country including Seoul, Busan, Daejeon and Jeonju, to introduce latest British culture through concerts, exhibitions, architecture, culture and science.
"While the U.K. has a strong conservative image due to Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond 007 movie series, I wanted to promote latest modern British culture," he said. "Korean culture and education are evaluated positively and I wanted to approach them in a more sincere way."
In his fifth year in Korea, Fryer enjoys traditional Korean performances including pansori, traditional style of narrative song, and also likes to read translated versions of books written by Korean writers such as Hwang Seok-young and Ko Un.
"I enjoy reading fictions on Korean modern history written by Lee Moon-yeol and Han Kang," Fryer said. "Korean culture has roots in traditions but also is linked to latest trends in modern art."
He often visits concerts, particularly of kugak, Korean traditional music including pansori. "I'm always impressed whenever I listen to master traditional singers called 'sorikkun,'" he said. "It is also amazing to meet people whom I met in pansori concerts at pop music and classical concerts."
Fryer will finish his term in office next year and return to the U.K. When asked what he hopes to bring home the most, he said, "Korean ceramics are really special. I will be more than satisfied if I can take one of them with me."