On the 11th and 12th of May 2001 the 1st Baduk Conference was organized by the Baduk department (founded in 1997) of the Myong-ji University in Yong-In, Korea. The event featured 25 presentations given by representatives of the following countries: Australia, Belgium, China, Czech, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Rumania, Russia, Taiwan, USA, England and Yugoslavia.
Each of the presentations was based on an article presented on the conference in a 350 page book of proceedings. Both a Korean and English version was available.
The topics featured a wide variety of topics in various area's of interest. For example teaching Baduk to children and grown-ups, Baduk and computers, history of Baduk, Baduk middle and endgame, popularizing Baduk in the Western world, Baduk rules, organizing Baduk events, Baduk and psychiatry and many more.
The event was attended daily by some 100-150 visitors with various background: Baduk scientists and students, professional and amateur Baduk players and also the media was represented by the writing press, the Korean television and a documentary team from the USA.
Sessions lasted from 10:00 in the morning till 17:30 in the evening with some coffee and lunch breaks in between. On average each presentation would take some 25 minutes.
The event was organized by the following persons:
On the 11th and 12th of May the first Baduk conference was held. This event, organized by the Baduk department of the Myong-Ji university in Yong-In, Korea will be a yearly one. Below my impressions of the event and my experiences with the Baduk culture in Korea in general which I collected during my stay in Korea.
In December the Dutch Go Association approaches me with the question whether I would be interested to attend a conference on Baduk in Seoul. They suggest I could talk about my website for example. Of course, I am very enthusiastic about the idea to participate the conference and the same week I write an abstract for the presentation which contains a global description of the plans for my website which I had been carrying around for a while. I keep things vague on purpose so I will be able to change the focus in the months before the actual conference.
In February I receive the invitation from the conference committee in Korea and a hectic time starts to get the article finished in time. I want to use this unique opportunity to talk about GoBase as well, a go database program designed and developed by me and Geert-Jan van Opdorp. Consequently, the article will cover two subjects: GoBase and the website new style.
The first version of the article is rejected: too long, but after some evenings of hard work and creative rewriting I can reduce the article by some 20 pages and this new version is accepted (see below for the electronic version).
Meet and Beat
The 10th of May I arrive in Korea and am welcomed at the airport by the "Meet and Greet" team, a group of students who will take care of us during the days to come. I will soon start to call them the "Meet and Beat" team since besides good care they also provide Baduk lessons on the board with one-sided results. Most students are strong Baduk players (4-6 dan) which was the case for most Koreans I have played. All very strong: good reading abilities combined with a polished sense for shape and direction of play.
The conference itself was interesting in the sense that a wide variety of subjects were discussed. From artificial intelligence to the effects which playing Baduk has on the human brain. From teaching Baduk to children and grown-ups. From middle game strategies to rational methods to play the endgame. From the history of Baduk to the ways to popularize the game. And from the rules of Baduk to the ways to use modern facilities such as computers to enlighten insights in the game.
The presentations themselves were more or less interesting, mostly depending on the time the participants had invested beforehand. While some participants were still cutting and gluing on the very day of the presentation, others were fully prepared with laptops, presentation software and slide shows. In general, most participants seemed to feel that the allotted time for the actual presentation (between 20 and 30 min) was a little short.
The attention of the media was enormous. Baduk journalists, television teams and an American documentary team are present. Myself, I was interviewed three times in total. Twice by the Americans and once by Kwang-Gu Lee from the Chosun Daily newspaper. I have given my presentation twice during my stay in Korea. Once was a private presentation for the internet branch of the Korean Baduk Association. My personal wish to establish contacts for future corporation with Korean organizations were thus realized and I feel that some of the meetings I had might have follow-ups in the future.
The Korean Baduk culture
During my stay in Korea I got a good impression of the Korean Baduk culture. There is the Baduk faculty at the university (more about that later on), there are over 1000 Baduk schools with a wide range in strength and ambition, there are a countless number of Baduk clubs and there is a 24-hour Baduk TV channel to quench the thirst of the estimated 12.5 million Baduk players (about 60 million inhabitants in Korea). This undoubtedly makes Baduk Korean sport number 1.
The Baduk faculty
Before my visit to Korea I didn't have a clear picture of what a Baduk faculty comprised but now I do have some idea of their activities and plans. Globally, you can achieve three aims with the study: if you're interested and have the capabilities you can become a professional Baduk player, you can practise to become a Baduk teacher or you can focus on becoming a so called media expert (think of teaching and reporting facilities using all modern techniques such as the internet). The program runs since 1997 and lasts four years so coming year the first graduates will be delivered. It will be interesting to see where they eventually will end up.
During the studies a continuous program of tsume-go is covered. A set of about 10.000 problems divided into various levels is presented over the years. Koreans strongly believe that good reading skills is the basis for good Baduk play. They have put me on problems for endless hours hoping I would get the mood for solving Baduk problems and maybe also since they quickly noticed that my game (and likely of most western players) shows various cracks and holes in this area. I have to say that spending a while in such a culture of reading is very inspiring. After some days I actually couldn't play any automatic moves anymore but instead tried to read out each and every move before playing.
How to teach Baduk?
During the conference the subject how to teach Baduk to children was discussed heavily. Soon it became evident three different type of schools exist:
Baduk an olympic sport?
Another topic which came up various times during the conference was if, how and when Baduk can become an olympic sport. The importance of Baduk as an olympic sport was acknowledged by all. For example, it would help the popularization of Baduk, especially in the Western world. However, in my opinion there are quite some problems to solve before this plan can be realized.
But in general the attendants were optimistic about these issues and it will surely be a key element in the Korean long term planning and strategies.
During my stay in Korea I participated in a total of four (what was misleadingly called) "friendship" matches. The results varied from 0-18 against a team of youngsters in a Baduk school to 10-10 against a random selection taken from the visitors of the largest Baduk club in Seoul (three halls with a total capacity of 1700 seats). The other two matches were against the female and male students of the Baduk faculty. In total this provided the visitors with another 7 wins against 31 losses.
Of course, there were lots of opportunities to play
professionals as well.
The days were long, starting from 07:00 (and sometimes even 06:00) till 22:00 in the evening, and exhausting but the amount of impressions we got from Korea and especially the Korean Baduk culture are unique in my opinion. They let us see behind the scenes up to the studios of the Baduk television station. We could watch the professionals play their BC Card Cup games and we could hang over the boards of insei playing their nerve-wrecking qualification games. An incredible hospitality and an enormous eagerness to give the Western go players a good impression of Baduk in Korea was the common denominator during the whole visit with our friends in Korea.
Wodzimierz Malinowski kindly sent me pictures of the conference, friendship matches and excursions which followed after the conference.
In this section I offer the electronic versions of the papers and slides as presented on the conference. Please submit your paper and/or slides as well if you have an electronic version available.