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What is "Bellagio"? Isn't it the five-star casino hotel in Las Vegas, famous for its extravagant fountain show? As a matter of fact, some motels in Seoul or in countryside carry Bellagio. But I'm boastful of visiting the "original Bellagio" in Italy during the winter vacation 2006.
Bellagio is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Como, north of Milan near Chiasso of Switzerland. I had a chance to visit the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center located in Bellagio in early 2006.
The center is called Villa Serbelloni which, dated back to Cecilius Plinius II of the Roman Empire, was owned by Francesco Sfondrati in the 16th century. Sfondrati was a famous scholar who taught law at the universities of Padova and Rome, and became Saint Anastacia Cardinal after he lost his beloved wife.
So the Villa, with spacious gardens and long and winding trails around the Villa, still represents the lifestyle of the medieval nobles. The late heiress, an American Italian lady, assigned the Villa to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913, which just started its operation.
Now the Foundation allows scholars and artists in pursuit of intellectual works regardless of their skin or background to stay at the Villa for one week to a couple of months for free. In fact, I brought some Euros with me, but had nothing to do with money except the telephone or copy machine expenses.
What on earth isn't it a paradise?
They provide me with a comfortable bedroom, nice meals and beverages.
Residents are friendly and ready to help me without any competitive atmosphere.
The climate is so mild and the air is full of gentle breeze.
The landscape all around is magnificent.
If there is a presence of the Omnipotent, it must be a heaven.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me to participate in the Bellagio workshop, as I explained during the self-introduction at the first night of the workshop.
When I was offered via e-mail to review a thesis written by a Korean student staying in Australia, I agreed to do so with pleasure, and received a small amount of honorarium. However, Dr. Graham Greenleaf, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, suggested me to join a project team which was about to conduct a comparative study of privacy legislation of 7 or 8 countries. Professor Greenleaf was confident of my analytic view of Korean legislation on data protection, which is conveyed on my homepage at http://onepark.netian.com.
"Privacy@40" workshop was organized by Professor James Rule of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Professor Graham Greenleaf of the University of New South Wales under the auspices of the National Science Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. All those participants was asked to contribute a chapter by country or jurisdiction to provide an authoritative and informative source of reference to privacy protection law and policy, and other issues in each of eight jurisdiction. Of course, I was in charge of South Korea.
I had no problem, except one thing that it should be written in English, because I had conducted similar projects each year since I came to academia in 2000. So I prepared lengthy reports on the data protection in Korea, and sent my writings ranging from 12 to 16 thousand words to Professor Greenleaf several times asking for his comments.
In September 2005, I happened to meet with Professor Greenleaf in Seoul on the occasion of the international forum on the privacy rights in the digital age hosted by the Korean Commission for UNESCO. But it was a brief encounter because he hastened to return to Australia because his mother was hospitalized.
In January 2006, I sent the final version of my writing to Graham just after I came back from the journey to Halong Bay, Viet Nam, and left for Milan on January 30, 2006.
I had to transfer to an Alitalia airplane bound for Milan at the Frankfurt/Main Airport. To my surprise, it was going to Linate Airport rather than Malpensa Airport, where I was scheduled to stay one night at a nearby hotel. So I had to move from Linate to Malpensa at the late hours by taxi! I was much concerned to hear that it takes around one hour or so by taxi, and it will cost more than one hundred euros. Those who have similar experiences as mine will understand my concerns.
The situation changed for the better when the information desk informed me of the shuttle bus, and I got on a limousine bus from Linate directly to Malpensa five minutes later at 21:30 in front of the Malpensa Airport terminal. I paid nine euros to the bus driver without hesitation. Surprisingly, I was a sole passenger at that time.
Upon arriving at the Malpensa Airport terminal by bus, I took a white cab to go to Hotel Villa Malpensa eight hundred meters away from the airport terminal. It was impossible to get there on foot.
Hotel Villa Malpensa was believed to be a mansion owned by a noble man, which has a small chapel ringing a bell at each hour on the premises.
Naturally I awoke at two o'clock in the morning, and studied the papers for workshop.
At 7:40, I came down to the restaurant for morning buffet. There I met with James who was going to pick me up at the hotel. And he came to my hotel exactly at 8:30 as scheduled. I got on a van going to Bellagio. I was greeted by other participants on the mini-bus.
Lake Como was large and long. When moving on the narrow lakeshore drive, we could find quite different view of landscape whenever we made turn along the road. Much snow was put aside in the area.
At the first night on January 31, 2006, after all the participants arrived at the Villa, we had a time to introduce ourselves to other participants.
As for me, it seemed to be a long and rough road to travel with foreign scholars. To my disappointment, French was a second language among the participants. However, I could find a couple of things in common because I studied at the University of Amsterdam for one year, and spent several years in the United States.
The first morning had broken. No, I woke up at two o'clock (10:00 a.m. in KST) as usual.
I started my notebook computer connected on line with the Korean Web sites. I was amazed when I could check my bank account via the Internet. In the Internet-based cyberspace, I came to realize the difference of time and location does not matter any longer.
After seven o'clock, the windows became brighter. The color of sky reflected on the waters of the lake was changing. Finally, the sun beams were scattered between the mountain tops though I couldn't see the sunrise. I had a quiet time looking at the changing atmosphere over the lake. After finishing a morning shower, I came down to the refectory for breakfast.
The Privacy at Forty workshop was like a bloc seminar, which a scholar used to run for graduate students at various European universities. In the morning session of the first day, James explained to all participants the goal of the project and the organization of the workshop. He stressed that each chapter start with two or three anecdotes and contain a story line to make it more readable and easily understandable to ordinary readers without specific knowledge on privacy issues. Co-editor Graham gave us briefing on an exemplar case of Australia.
Presentations were followed by the authors of chapters regarding international institutions (Lee Bygrave, Professor of Univ. of Oslo), Germany (Wolfgan Kilian, Professor of Univ. of Hanover) in the afternoon. The next day, the United States (Priscilla Regan, Professor of George Mason Univ.) and South Korea (Whon-il Park, Professor of Kyung Hee Univ.) in the morning, and Hungary (Ivan Szekely, Professor of Budapest Univ.) and France (Andre Vitalis, Professor of Univ. of Bordeaux III) in the afternoon. In the morning of the third day, Hong Kong (Graham Greenleaf) and Canada (Stephanie Perrin, Director of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada), and the conclusion and wrap-up session (James Rule) in the afternoon.
When an author explained the main points of his or her chapter, other participants raised several questions and useful suggestions during Q&A sesseions.
(Far left photo shows from left Andre, Park, Stephanie, Wolfgang, Ivan, Graham, Jim, Priscilla and Lee.)
I had some problems in making the residence registration number, a unique ID card system in Korea, more understandable to foreigners. As it functions as a universal identifier, its adoption is unimaginable in advanced democratic countries, as envisaged in Australia, Japan and the United States. So I needed to show its sample to other participants. I could find some images of the ID card on the Web sites as well as the photograph of the famous transsexual entertainer Harisu, who finally succeeded in obtaining a new ID card showing that she was he.
I prepared two-page notes which conveyed my promises that I'll modify the Korean chapter reflecting the suggestions during the workshop. For example, such issues as smart card, data matching, groundless confidence toward the public sector and the unique mentality of ordinary Koreans, and the lessons to be learned from the Korean experiences would be added in my chapter.
On the other hand, all the participants were surprised to hear that, during the past four decades, so many incidents took place in South Korea, including the armed guerrillas' attack on the presidential residence, unprecedented growth of nation's economy, attempted assassination of President Park and First Lady, civilian's successful movement for democratization, Korea's admission to the international community and the IMF crisis, among others.
The workshop seemed to me a little society, as I witnessed in other international conferences.
When a topic was raised, two female specialists (Stephanie and Priscilla) presented their informative opinions and ideas at first. Then Anglo-Saxon scholars (Jim, Graham and Lee) summarized the main points in a succinct manner, which were often confronted by arguments by German scholars (Wolfgang and Ivan). I had to carry out my responsibility by making useful comments.
But the fierce discussions were completely over during the evening hours while enjoying the flavor of each nation's wines. So I brought Bokbunja wine with me.
At the evening after the "last supper," we had a blind test of wine. The host concealed the labels of four bottles of wine. Then we had to find out the origin of each wine by relishing a little bit from two Bordeaux, one American and one Australian red wine. Though I could tell a little difference of flavor, it was like a blind man catching a door handle.
It was my fortune to have an opportunity to enter a de facto MOU for cooperation between the Institute for Legal Informatics (IRI) of the University Hanover and the Kyung Hee Legal Institute of Kyung Hee University. Also I promised to take up the position as a Korean reporter for the on-line legal database project organized and carried out by Professor Greenleaf.
It was enabled by several words exchanged between the scholars who learn the ropes of the special area of knowledge. And it was another reason that no money is necessary at the moment.
At the last supper table, I placed a dish of Korean Kimchi which I had bought at the Incheon Airport several days ago. It was naturally fermented and turned into a good condition to eat. I was proud of the Korean food because it tastes good and proves to prevent cancer and SARS. Graham and Ivan totally agreed with me. After a series of Italian food full of cheese and olive oil, Kimchi was like an oasis in the desert.
Coincidently it fell on the 67th birthday of Professor Wolfgang Kilian on Friday. So we had a candle light party with a "Happy Birthday" song.
Then I proved myself as a ordinary Korean who likes to play and sing a song in a festive mood. It belonged to my favorite repertoire to sing "You raise me up" and "Come back to Port Busan, my Brethren." All of a sudden, Andre made an appearance with a guitar. Andre sang several numbers of French chansong playing the instrument. And the atmosphere was increasingly escalated.
Professor Kilian gave me a bottle of German white wine, appreciating my contribution to the birthday party. I promised him to invite to Seoul, Korea to further mutual cooperation in the area of legal informatics between two academic institutions in the near future.
At first, the road looked unpaved and winding. But finally it turned out to be a highway as for me in the academic community. The five-day workshop was really valuable as five-year experiences on campus.
When I left the Lake Como area, I looked back in the direction of the Bellagio Villa because I could not know when I revisit here again. (February 10, 2006)
In the Korean version