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Chinese first lady engages in 'culture diplomacy'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- The Chinese president's state visit to South Korea has drawn sharp attention not only for its political implications but also for the cultural exchange led by first lady Peng Liyuan.

While her husband, Xi Jinping, held summit talks Thursday with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Peng toured Changdeok Palace, which dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and expressed her interest in Korean culture.

Dressed elegantly in a long white jacket and white skirt, with a touch of green added by a flower-shaped brooch, the first lady exuded ease and charm as she walked through the palace's courts and gardens, accompanied by South Korea's senior presidential secretary for political affairs, Cho Yoon-sun.

Although much of the original structure was destroyed during a Japanese invasion and by fire in the 16th and 17th centuries, Changdeok is the best preserved palace in Seoul and is recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

Inside the palace's "secret garden," called Biwon in Korean, Peng praised the beautiful harmony created by the garden's nature and buildings.

During the tour, she recalled the 2003 smash-hit Korean epic series "Daejanggeum," saying she feels as if she is inside that TV series.

Daejanggeum, also known as "Jewel in the Palace," tells the tale of an orphaned cook who goes on to become the king's first female physician.

Peng noted that such TV programs helped the two nations' young generations develop their understanding of each other's cultures.

When exchanging traditional gifts with the presidential secretary, the first lady also mentioned the Korean series "My Love from the Star," joking that she wishes her husband was the leading male character in the drama.

Cho gave two bottle openers as gifts to Peng, suggesting that Xi use the one shaped like the Korean character for "star," while the first lady use the one shaped like the Korean character for "flower."

The state dinner that night at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae was held in a warm and lively atmosphere, officials said.

Peng clapped loudly as a children's choir performed the Chinese song that brought her national fame as a singer in the early 1980s.

Among the guests was Lee Chang-ho, a popular South Korean player of the board game "baduk," known as "weiqi" in China.

Xi, who is known to be a fan of Lee, expressed delight as he shook hands with the player, officials said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/140704/chinese-first-lady-engages-culture-diplomacy-0