Hallyu star Bae Yong-joon, right, smiles for his fans after receiving the government's Hwa-Gwan Order of Culture Merit for his contribution to promoting Korean popular culture abroad. Left is Culture Minister Yu In-chon, who presented the award at a ceremony held Saturday to mark 2008 Culture Day. / Yonhap
By Han Sang-hee
Hallyu (Korean wave) star Bae Yong-joon has been given the Hwa-Gwan Order of Culture Merit by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at an event celebrating the 2008 Culture Day.
``I will further think about my roles as an actor and celebrity. I will also do my best to promote Korea in the future. I thank everyone here and abroad who allowed me to stand here on this honorable stage,'' he said after receiving the merit at a ceremony held at the Cheongju Arts Center, North Chungcheong Province Saturday. This is the first time an actor has been given the honor, which is divided into five categories, Geum-Gwan, Eun-Gwan, Bo-Gwan, Og-Gwan and Hwa-Gwan.
Having such a tight schedule, the actor arrived by helicopter, rushing through some 400 Japanese fans who have been waiting for him in front of the arts center prior to the event.
Bae, 35, was given the honor as he has continuously devoted his work and himself to promote Korean culture to the world through dramas, his restaurant business and other cultural activities.
His drama ``Winter Sonata (2002), in which he starred with another top star Choi Ji-woo, was a great success and was aired in more than 20 countries, catapulting him to become one of Korea's most successful actors. His other works include drama ``Taewangsasingi'' (The Four Guardian Gods of the King) (2007) and movie ``April Snow'' (2005). Bae also launched a Korean traditional restaurant ``Gosireh'' in Tokyo in 2006, along with introducing Korean kimchi ``Gosireh Cabbage Kimchi'' to Japan through supermarkets and department stores.
Bae recently became the nation's goodwill ambassador in a bid to bring more than 10 million tourists here and also take Korean tourism to the next level.
The actor also visited Munkyeong, North Gyeongsang Province and other cultural cities to research and further work on a Korean guide book he is planning to publish soon.
Along with Bae, designer Andre Kim and singer Jang Na-ra were also present at the ceremony to receive the Bo-Gwan Order of Culture Merit and Today's Young Artist Award, respectively.