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Music Heralds Start of China-ROK Year
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A musical Prayer played as the curtain rose on the China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Exchange Year last night.

More than 1,500 Chinese and ROK government officials, students and embassy officials from around the world, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao and his counterpart Han Duck-soo, gathered in Seoul for a gala performance by Chinese and ROK artists at the National Theater of Korea.

The dances, following the rhythm of the Chinese folk song The Jasmine Flower, were performed by the China national Opera and Dance Drama Company.

Tianmimi, or I'm Still Loving You, a melody popular in both countries was played by the ROK Gayagum Orchestra, and The Angel on the Palm was performed by Chinese acrobats.

The ballet Giselle won the biggest applause.

Representing the history of exchanges between China and the ROK, the stage was decorated like an ocean with ships passing each other.

The setting implied the hope of a new voyage to the future with the two countries' cooperation in one ship, according to the gala's organizers.

The event coincided with the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the ROK.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Wen said China and the ROK were "good neighbors, good friends and good partners".

"In the past 15 years, the comprehensive partnership between China and the ROK has taken great strides," said Wen. "Both have become significant driving forces, guaranteeing economic stability, prosperity and growth in the region."

It was agreed to designate 2007 the China-ROK Exchange Year when President Hu Jintao visited the ROK in November, 2005.

The year will see various events designed to increase cooperation.

Bilateral exchanges have become increasingly frequent between the two countries in recent years, with the number of people traveling between China and the ROK reaching more than 5 million last year, according to the statistics from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Around 800 flights operate between major Chinese and ROK cities every year.

China is experiencing a "Korean wave" with Korean TV dramas increasingly popular among Chinese families, while a "Chinese wind" is said to be sweeping across the ROK with more than 10,000 people now visiting China every day.

About 60,000 ROK students study in China and more than 500,000 ROK citizens live in China. While in the ROK the number of universities with Chinese departments has increased from two or three in the 1960s to 120 today, with 4,000 graduates every year.

"China and the ROK are close in geography, similar in culture and complementary in economy," ROK Prime Minister Han said at the ceremony.

Key events of the China-ROK Exchange Year will also include a celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties on August 24, and a closing ceremony in Beijing in December.

(China Daily April 11, 2007)

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