|Brother Anthony, right, is presented with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Charles Hay, the British ambassador to Korea, on Dec. 2. / Korea Times photo by John Dunbar|
By Robert Neff
Brother Anthony of Taize lowered his head with the humility of a true religious man as he was presented with an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Charles Hay, the British Ambassador to Korea, on Dec. 2.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the relationship between the United Kingdom and Korea, the ceremony in Brother Anthony's honor was held at Ambassador Hay's residence in Jeong-dong, downtown Seoul, and was vaguely reminiscent of the past. Built in the 1890s, the residence retains much of its original charm and the ambassador was attired in his diplomatic uniform.
In attendance were several notable Korean poets, translators, a tea master and many members of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch (RASKB). In his short speech, Hay noted that it was "perhaps the largest grouping of experts on Korea" that he has met during his time in Seoul and that it "firmly reinforces Brother Anthony's reputation as a true polymath when it comes to Korean Studies as well of course wider literary studies."
Upon receiving the honor, Brother Anthony modestly protested, "It is a recognition of what we have been doing together, not me."
Contrary to his humble assertion that he was undeserving of the honor, his history indicates otherwise.
In the late 1970s, Brother Anthony worked with the impoverished in the Philippines for a couple of years before coming to Korea in 1980 on invitation of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan. He became a naturalized Korean in 1994 -- his Korean name is An Sonjae (meaning "little pilgrim").
His entire life has been devoted to education. He studied Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford and taught English literature at Sogang University where he is a Professor Emeritus.
Praising his efforts, Hay said, "Through his rich scholarly output he has done much to further the knowledge in Korea of leading British writers and poets as diverse as Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Philip Larkin and Geoffrey Hill."
In the late 1980s, Brother Anthony began translating Korean literature and has published a large number of these in books and articles. Through these translations he "has greatly enhanced and enriched academic knowledge of Korea in the United Kingdom and the English speaking world," said Hay.
As many readers are aware, Brother Anthony's translations of Korean poetry appear quite frequently in The Korea Times.
He is quite popular in the expat community. He is president of the RASKB -- one of the oldest Western organizations in Korea and the oldest English-language organization of Korean Studies -- and actively promotes lectures and tours to educate both the Korean and foreign communities of this country and enrich its culture.
He is also an avid tea drinker and has published or co-published books on tea culture including "The Korean Way of Tea" and "Korean Tea Classics."
Yes, Brother Anthony, you are truly worthy of the recognition that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has bestowed upon you. Congratulations.