The 102nd World Esperanto Congress held its opening ceremony at Obama Hall, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) on July 23, 2017. Gathering an annual average of approximately 1,200 participants from 62 countries around the world, the World Esperanto Congress serves as a venue for beginner Esperanto courses, academic conferences with scholarly presentations, and a range of cultural exchange activities.
The 102nd World Esperanto Congress, held in Korea for the second time after the 79th Congress in 1994, staged a variety of events and performances, including the Night of Korea (featuring the Arirang Symphony Orchestra), the Night of International Arts, concerts, plays, and banquets.
Esperanto, the most widely-spoken constructed language in the world, was introduced in 1887 by Polish-Jewish philologist Ludoviko Zamenhof. The name “Esperanto” is derived from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which Zamenhof published Unua Libro in the same year. It was crafted as a neutral global language to facilitate communication between people from different language backgrounds.
The Universal Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, UEA) is an international organization founded in 1908 for Esperanto speakers. The UEA promotes the use of Esperanto and fairness in multilingual communication, holding the annual congress and other international events and working to spread the use of the lingua franca in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto, UK) is the world’s largest Esperanto gathering and is held in a different country in July each year in partnership with the UEA, the Esperanto association of the host country, and Esperantists. The week-long event offers basic Esperanto lessons, symposiums, other Esperanto-related programs, and a tour for participants during the day. During the evenings, it provides networking events, such as the Night of Friendship, and traditional performances presented by the host country.
Any country wishing to host a World Congress must submit its application to the UEA three years in advance, and the Estrara kunsido en la CO de UEA chooses a host country. Although there are no special rules for choosing a host nation, the World Congress has been held on different continents since the 1980s. The 1st World Esperanto Congress was held in France in 1905, which also hosted the 100th World Congress in 2015 in commemoration of its centennial anniversary. Having hosted the 79th World Congress in 1994, Korea is currently holding the 102nd World Congress. The 103rd World Congress is slated to be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018, and the host nation for the following World Congress will be chosen at this year’s World Congress.