Italy’s Big in Korea

My name’s Maria Adorno, but to tell the truth at home, at school and in my home town they call me Maria Piera.

Maria Adorno

Maria Adorno

I have lived and worked in Seoul since 2008, and here I am known to most people as “Maria” (a lot of my students even forget the “Professor”) it’s just “Maria” in Seoul.

In 2006 I was successful in obtaining my position from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  I arrived here in 2008 and started working, teaching Italian language and culture classes, in just one university, two courses with twelve students.  I am the only person ever to have this job in the whole of South Korea, so I am very proud.

Now, after all this time, I have six courses, in two universities, and almost 300 students!  ALL of my students are in love with Italy and our beautiful language.  I don’t need to motivate them, in Korea Italy is BIG!

With such wonderful students you can do many things; in 2013, to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Verdi, we had a special lesson when a baritone, a soprano and a pianist collaborated with all my students, as well as many other students who helped with the electronics (there are many experts in this field here!)all on a voluntary basis.

Last Saturday (21 February 2015), thanks to the support of Pescara Council, I was able to give my recitation – “I nostri migranti, un concerto a più voci”(Our migrants, a concert of many voices), in the conference hall of the Colonna Museum in Pescara.

In October, to mark International Italian Language Week, I presented a special lecture dedicated to four migrants.  In the previous months I had received other contributions, one from Australia and one from North America, so the number of characters rose to six.  In Seoul, working with my students and other Italian volunteers, this special lesson was given in Italian and English. In Pescara everyone (including three of my Korean students who were on an Italian language course at the University for Foreigners in Siena) spoke in Italian.

The ‘pillar’ of the event was Mrs Gabriella Marcotullio, event organiser for the Domenico Tinozzi Association, who had secured the hall for the event and contacted the City of Pescara Polyphonic Choir, who performed a much appreciated concert. The Fabbrini company had allowed the use of a Steinway piano, a welcome gesture for the show as one of the Abruzzese emigrants was Sante Auriti, possibly the only person in the world able to construct, in all its elaborate detail, a Steinway piano. The Maestro Russo, as well as conducting the choir also played “My Way”, whilst showing a series of images of Mr Auriti at work.  One of the Korean students played the piano for the rest of the piece.  There were three Italian participants, myself, Dr Silvestro Profico, and a young man, Ludovico Mincarini.  They all performed faultlessly.The three Korean students where won over by the audience’s affection, and by the undeniable beauty of Pescara enhanced by wonderful weather.  They were invited to return as soon as possible in the near future.

One of the students (the most nervous and who had faced the audience after less than three weeks of studying Italian) comes from Gangneung, a city on the east coast of Korea in the Gangwon-do region, that reminds me a lot of our beautiful region, which despite many years in Korea I still hold dear, along with the whole of our beautiful country.


Korea - Alpensia resort

Korea – Alpensia resort

I found this place two years ago, having decided to visit the mountains.  Alpensia is a holiday village which was built in a very short time and out of nothing,there’s a luxury hotel, roads and buildings that remind you of a Swiss village, in preparation for the 2018 winter Olympics.  By that time there will be fast trains, KTX, linking the coast and mountains rapidly, for now, there are very frequent, comfortable and cheap buses doing the journey in less than three hours.  The distance from the sea is more or less the same as that from our Passo Lanciano to the coast. I don’t ski so using the efficient Korean public transport service I went to Gangneung, and there I really felt like I was in Abruzzo!  The beautiful beach was so much like that at Pineto.

A little further north there is a famous National Park (actually there are many in the region, just like in Abruzzo), which reminded me of the beautiful Abruzzese parks.

Korea - National Park tag

Korea – National Park Tag

Even the emblem is a bear, the brown Asian bear.

At Osaek there are also hot mineral springs (used for thermal baths) which made me think of Popoli. (I’m very fond of the Popoli thermal baths).

So, to conclude, I would really like to propose a twinning of our two regions.





(*) translated by Gail K.

“I fell in love with Italy in my early 20s, in the early 1980s, when I lived in Abruzzo, in Chieti, for four years.  My passions are numerous and include food, film, fun and football.  I also love wine, reading, travelling, music, nature, skiing, swimming, horseriding, etc.  My academic background is Sociology (BA), Early Childhood (MA) and TEFL.  I am now a semi-retired English Teacher, living in Italy with 6 cats; my two sons, in their 20s having flown the nest.”