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'Queen-mania' rocks Seoul; Monarch is given pop star welcome during state visit.

The Queen was given a pop star's welcome yesterday when thousands of South Koreans turned out to see her.

Excited women students screamed and surged across security cordons as the British monarch visited Ewha Women's University in Seoul.

And thousands more packed a narrow shopping street when the Queen went on a walkabout in the capital.

Not since the Pope visited South Korea a decade ago have there been such scenes, which even eclipsed last year's official visit by United States President Bill Clinton.

The Queen appeared slightly bem-used by the celebrity welcome at the Women's University campus on the second day of her state visit.

It could have been Madonna or the Spice Girls arriving, as the mass of predominantly 18 to 25-year-old women screamed and cheered.

Ewha is the world's largest women's university, with 18,000 students, and it seemed most had gathered for a glimpse of the Royal visitor.

At one stage, it appeared as if police would be overwhelmed by the excited crowd pushing to get closer to the Queen. But officials managed to keep the good-natured students in check.

Inside the university, the Queen learned of research into the medicinal properties of the Korean herb ginseng which raises stamina and lowers high blood pressure.

She was presented with a box of red ginseng roots to take back to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen chatted with students and graduates in the university cafeteria.

Byun Young-Joo, a graduate film director, told her: "We have just been seeing all the films about you, including your life story."

"I'm afraid that's rather a long story," replied the Queen, who today celebrates her 73rd birthday while in South Korea.

Also in the cafe was graduate Im Eun-Joo, aged 33, the world's first female international football referee.

"The men respect me," she said. "Sometimes I'm very strict but I don't think I'm ordering men about, I'm helping them."

Next stop for the Queen was Seoul's Insa-dong shopping district where thousands awaited her arrival.

Oriental music played over loudspeakers along the narrow street decorated with Union Jacks, Korean flags and paper lanterns.

It was here that the British Queen came face to face with a Korean "Queen" from another age.

The Korean monarchy was ousted by Japanese invaders in 1910 but the Insa- dong Preservation Society keeps tradition alive with Kim Baek-soon dressed as Korea's Queen Min who was assassinated by Japanese agents.

Queen Elizabeth went into a calligraphy shop where she was given a scroll and two seals depicting owls, which are among her favourite birds.

In a pottery shop the Queen signed her name with a calligraphy stick on a teapot and was given another teapot as a souvenir.

She has developed a particular interest in traditional Korean pottery and porcelain and, at Easter, was given a private tour of the Korean gallery at the British Museum. In an up-market clothes shop, specialising in traditional Korean hanboks, the Queen was presented with a turquoise and gold suit of Korean Royal robes.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh visited the site of Seoul's 2002 World Cup Stadium and donned a hard hat at the construction site of the Kayang Bridge, engineered by British firm Mott McDonald.

At LG Corporate Institute of Technology, he was told of a joint venture between Korean conglomerate LG and British Telecom.

The Duke's eye was scanned by state-of-the-art iris recognition technology, pioneered at Cambridge University. The resulting calibration eventually allowed him to open a security door, but only at the third try.

Twice the machine's computerised voice told him: "You are not identified", until finally it recognised the Royal iris and said "Identification completion". The machine's creators breathed a sigh of relief.

Earlier, the Duke saw printed-circuit boards being manufactured at Daeryung Electronics, a Korean company which has invested pounds 18 million in a factory at Craigavon, Northern Ireland.

He visited Jungsoo Polytechnic where he was cheered by several hundred students, some of whom are jobless and are undergoing re-training during a period of mass unemployment in South Korea
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Author:Archer, Peter
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 21, 1999
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