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HomeDiplomacy Ex-conductor manages discordant notes of democracy in Austria

[INTERVIEW] Ex-conductor manages discordant notes of democracy in Austria

Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the Austrian National Council, at the exhibition “The Beauty of the Sixth Century of the Habsburg Empire” held at the National Museum of Korea in central Seoul on Thursday. 1864-1897) to Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Politicians with a professional background in music are rare in Vienna.

Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the Austrian National Council, fits that unusual bill.

Sobotka retired from his conducting career ten years ago, but still conducts music for causes or in his spare time between busy schedules.

However, during a recent visit to Seoul, his passion for music, art and history quickly became apparent when he toured a special exhibition hosted by the Museum of Art and History and the National Museum of Korea.

After seeing “The Sixth Century Beauty of the Habsburg Empire” at a museum in Seoul on Thursday, Sobotka said, “It’s amazing to see this very fine collection of Habsburg art and artifacts here in South Korea.

“We are very proud to introduce this piece of Austrian history to the Korean public with the addition of digital features that enhance our storytelling,” he said.

Paintings such as Julius Viktor Berger’s Art Patronage by the House of Habsburg and frescoes from the Kunsthistorisches Museum were brought to Seoul via video footage. The exhibition runs until his March 1st and showcases other famous works collected by the Habsburg family, such as Diego his Velázquez’s Infanta in a White Dress Her Margarita Teresa.

Sobotka’s visit to Seoul and the exhibition, held to mark the 130th anniversary of Austrian-South Korean relations, are a reflection of rising military tensions in both Europe and Asia, and the common threat to democracies around the world. The growing list of challenges for . Austria’s top parliamentarian said his trip would take place around this time.

To hear more about the common challenges facing the people of Austria and South Korea and the lessons that can be drawn from their pasts, Korea JoongAng Ilbo sat down with Sobotka in Seoul. Below is an edited excerpt from the interview.

Q. The last time the President of the Austrian National Council visited Korea was in 2007.
A. When the former Speaker of Parliament visited Austria last year to attend the World Speakers of Parliament Conference, he received an invitation to visit Korea. The Austrian parliament has always sought connections with Asia, and South Korea and India are her two countries in Asia that have parliamentary friendship groups. It is no coincidence that these two countries are powerful democracies and like-minded nations. This year also marks the 130th anniversary of Austria-Korea relations, making it the perfect time to visit.


When I visited the demilitarized zone on the north-south border, I was able to see the security situation of the country up close. In the context of the European security crisis, was there anything to be learned from that visit?
When the former Speaker of the National Assembly visited Vienna, they discussed the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. But it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s one thing to actually come and see it for yourself and get the full picture of the situation. The geopolitical situation in the region is of great interest in Europe, including the South Korean issue and China’s role in the region’s security dynamics, including its relationship with Taiwan. Austria and South Korea have an interest in regional peace. South Korea has offered options for dialogue and negotiations with North Korea, and we believe this effort should continue.

Austria, an EU member but not a member of NATO, has a policy of neutrality regarding its involvement in Ukraine. What exactly is this neutral position?
Austria has been a neutral country since 1955 and was occupied by several powers after World War II and gained independence when it declared neutrality, so neutrality was Austria’s national identity. This is why we do not support Ukraine militarily. But we are not politically neutral. What Russia is doing to Ukraine, invading the country and violating its borders is unacceptable.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Austria, and in recent years Austria has begun to recognize its role as the perpetrator of the Third Reich. What is being done in Austria to combat this phenomenon?
[1945年から1949年にかけて、私たちは加害者を法廷に持ち込むために多くのことをしてきました。裁判にかけられた人々は、その後、警察や学校の教師を含む公務員として働くことを禁じられました。オーストリアは一時期、ヒトラー支配時代の犠牲者と位置づけられていたが、1986年からは見方が変わり、フランツ・ブラニツキー首相が、我々は犠牲者であるだけでなく、加害者でもあると述べた。強制労働とホロコーストの生存者を補償するための基金を設立し、ナチスが押収した美術品や物品を返還するワシントン協定を米国と締結し、ホロコーストの生存者とその子孫に市民権を与えました。今、私たちはヨーロッパ中で増加している反ユダヤ主義に対して行動しなければなりません。今、反ユダヤ主義が社会の真ん中に根付き、人々の間の囁きの形でしか見えないのを目の当たりにしています。反ユダヤ主義は反民主主義であり、私たちはあらゆる形態の反ユダヤ主義と戦わなければなりません。

ミュージシャンとしてのキャリアと政治家としてのキャリアの間には継続的なつながりがあると思いますか?
接続がありません。 私の指揮者としてのキャリアは10年ほど前に終わったからです。 しかし、職業的にも、この 2 つの役割は非常に異なります。オーケストラは集まって同じ曲、同じ音符を団結して演奏しますが、議会は集まってさまざまな立場について話し合うため、さまざまなアイデアに反対するはずです。 、民主主義の鍵です。

エスター・チャン [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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