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Exhibition shows kaleidoscope of Canada’s Arctic wonders

The Canadian Arctic was once described as the “land that becomes large, alive like an animal; it humbles him. It is not that the land is simply beautiful but that it is powerful.” The literary eulogy continued in “Arctic Dreams,” an award-winning book by American author Barry Lopez, “Darkness and light are bound together within it, the feeling that this is the floor of creation.”

Covering over 40 percent of its territory, the Arctic has long been regarded as an indispensable part of Canada’s national identity. Since the new millennia, the North has broken out of its uncharted territory to be a land of opportunity.

Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper said in 2008 in the town of Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories, “We are a northern country. The True North is our destiny ― for our explorers, entrepreneurs and artists. To not embrace the promise of the North now, at the dawn of its ascendency, would be to turn our backs on what it means to be Canadian.”

The Canadian North is being showcased at an exhibition titled, “Canada’s Arctic: Vibrant and Thriving,” at the Asan Institute Gallery this month. Sixteen large photographs and posters display the region’s thriving communities within frozen landscapes, including the northern lights.

The exhibit shows Inuit and Aboriginal communities with a lifestyle inured to the harsh climate. The Inuit ― meaning “people” in Inuktitut ― have lived in Canada’s northernmost lands, hunting and gathering with the seasons for millennia.

The lands south of the Arctic Circle were occupied by the forefathers of today’s Aboriginal peoples, including the Dene, Gwichin, Cree and Metis. Today, these peoples dwell in tight-knit communities across the Yukon, southern Northwest Territories and northern border regions of mainland provinces. 
“Canada’s Arctic: Vibrant and Thriving,” an exhibition at the Asan Institute Gallery in Seoul in the month of December, show 16 large photographs and posters of the North’s thriving communities within frozen landscapes, including the northern lights. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
“Canada’s Arctic: Vibrant and Thriving,” an exhibition at the Asan Institute Gallery in Seoul in the month of December, show 16 large photographs and posters of the North’s thriving communities within frozen landscapes, including the northern lights. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Canada’s federal and territorial governments are working to devolve power and autonomy to these peoples. By partnering with companies, the local communities are looking to unlock the region’s enormous business potential while at the same time preserving their indigenous ways of life.

The Arctic is on the cusp of an economic renaissance. International attention has heaped up in recent years, driven by the region’s vast potential in energy development, sea route opening and polar research. Its rich natural resources of minerals, crude oil and liquefied natural gas ― estimated to be over 20 percent of the world’s reserves ― form the next growth engine of the energy-driven global market.

The Canadian government put the Arctic on the top of its federal agenda. The Northern Strategy, introduced in 2007, declared four guiding principles of development: territorial sovereignty, sustainable development, environmental protection and local governance.

By taking up Arctic Council chairmanship from 2013 to 2015 ― a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by Arctic governments and indigenous peoples ― Canada is leading initiatives on responsible business, self-sustained communities, Arctic research and tourism and wildlife conservation.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station, a key element of the Northern Strategy, will be operational by 2017 as a world-class research hub for international scientists.

Korea has been upping its effort to take part in the global Arctic affairs by assuming a permanent observer position at the Arctic Council since May 2013. With the signing of Canada-Korea free trade agreement in September, the two countries inked a memorandum of understanding on joint scientific research, mineral resource exploration and commercial development of the Arctic.

Canada and Korea have undertaken joint research projects through the Korea Polar Research Institute and the Arctic Council; and scientists from both countries participated in a geoscience research mission in the Canadian Beaufort Sea from the Korean icebreaker Araon last year.

The melting icecap exacerbated by global warming, while presenting threats in the lesser-developed countries, created new opportunities for polar navigation. The Northern Sea Route connecting the Far East Asian Sea and the Baltic Sea is expected to reduce transport time and distance by over 40 percent, compared to using the Suez Canal.

Korea’s port city of Busan is envisaged to assume a greater role as a commercial harbor for container and bulk. Analysts say that Busan has the potential to replace Singapore for transporting goods to major European ports, such as Bremen, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

The exhibition is organized as part of the Cross-Cultural Engagement program by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Educational Broadcasting System in partnership with embassies in Korea. Heads of mission are invited to deliver lectures introducing their countries to Korean audiences, which are broadcast on EBS every Tuesday at 8 p.m.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
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