SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Cho_Suil “Korea-Japan relations are increasing chaos !? ”

While Korea-Japan relations are becoming increasingly chaotic, I would like to look back on my short life as a foreign student in Japan, my individual connection with Japan and I would like to mention about the Korea- Japan relation in the 21st century.



[TV animations]

I was born in 1982 (Showa 57 in Japanese era ) and spent my student life in Seoul, Korea. When I entered “national school”, I have enjoyed TV animations like “Tetsujin 28”, “Mazinger Z”, “Tetuwan Atom (Astro Boy)”, “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman”, and “Honoh no Tokyuji, Dodge Danpei” etc..  In my junior and high school time, I have enjoyed “Slum Dunk”.

 *On March 1,1996, the name “national school” (vestige of Japanese colonial rule) was changed to

“primary school”.



It was in 2001, when I became the university student, I came to know that those enthusiastic animations were imported from Japan. Actually, I was not so interested in Japanese people, Japanese language, Japanese culture and Japanese history. I wanted to be a teacher, so I enrolled in the Japanese Language Education Department according to my score in the entrance examination. I was shocked to hear those animations were made in Japan from a friend who was familiar about Japanese culture. It was because of the character`s Korean name and the Korean language they spoke. 



When I came to Japan for the first time in 2006 for the purpose of learning Japanese language, I have been crazy, rather than textbooks, about colored “Slum Dunk” in 24 volumes which I bought at a nearby secondhand book store. I took it back to Korea and read it over repeatedly.



[Okinawa, Nagasaki, Yakiniku]  

In 2006, during my language training period in Japan, I went to Catholic Church every Sunday morning together with my roommate. I went to Okinawa together with Japanese, Chinese and Korean believers in June and prayed for the war deaths in the battle of Okinawa.



I learned about the past and the present of Okinawa by visiting the battle site, Peace Memorial Park, Futenma U.S. Military Base and Shuri-Jo (castle). We stayed at a religious house for five days having breakfast made by the Sisters. We travelled in Okinawa by micro bus and I could not forget enthusiastic voice of an Okinawa-born clergyman who guided us. Especially, he repeated “I am not a Japanese” which made me feel embarrassed and made me to notice that I have to study Japanese more. It might be an instant when I changed and selected my way to a scholar.



This time, Okinawa tour was planned by the father of the church where I used to visit for praying, He was born in Nagasaki and took me to Nagasaki so that, I could visit Catholic churches, Endo Shusaku Literature Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. I read the names of Korean victims whose name were inscribed in the Foundation of Peace at the Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa. I saw names of Korean workers who were victims of atomic bombs at Hiroshima on August 6 and at Nagasaki on August 9, in 1945. It made me realized sincerely that I, as a teacher, cannot teach Japanese without knowing their existence and meaning of Korean victims who came to Japan in the foreign land.  



When I came to Japan first, I could not progress my Japanese conversation ability despite of Level 2 (N2) ranking at Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. I worked as a part-time at a Yakiniku restaurant. It was strange for me to see Korean words, like ‘kalbi’, ‘kimchi (Korean lettuce)’, ‘kakuteki (cubed daikon kimchi)’, ‘Oi-Kimchi’, ‘sanchu (Korean lettuce)’, ‘gukpa’, ‘ bibimbap’ and ‘chijimi (Korean pancake)’. Some people say that such Korean words in Japan began to be used currently after the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. The Yakiniku restaurant, where I was working, was run by a family.  I was able to take staff meals and enjoy free alcoholic drinks after work.  The staffs who were working there were all Japanese except me, so that I was able to practice Japanese by asking everything that I was worried about. There is no exaggeration to say that communications and understanding with profound Japanese, whom I met at Yakiniku restaurant, have broken my walls of prejudice toward Japanese and changed my life.



[A piece of memory at my national school]

Going back to my national school time (March, 1989 – February, 1995), I would like to say about the Korean War which broke out on June 25, 1950. When the day, June 25 was near, we drew anti-communist posters and had anti-communist speech contests in school. At first, I thought that only demons and devils live in North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). On other hand, we sang the national anthem in which words like “Beckdu Mountain (白頭山) 2744m” or “Mountain Kumgang (金剛山) 1638m” are included.  We wrote posters and sang songs both of which are just for our hope “unification” and we were thinking that the North and the South will be unified in these five or ten years. In the year 1994, when I was in the sixth year at our national school, the Premier Kim Il-sung passed away. In our school, an announcement was made to turn on the televisions where his death was reported. I thought the unification of the North and the South would be materialized soon. Twenty-five years has already passed, but we are still divided.      



[The Millennium between Korea and Japan starts from dialogue and human love]  

On October 8, 1998, President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi agreed on the Joint Declaration on the Korea-Japan Partnerships toward the 21st Century.  In the Declaration, both of the countries agreed that they would talk about the ideal friendships and build new partnerships between two countries reconfirming the present amicable friendships.



Based on this agreement, “Common undertakings for foreign students from science and technology departments of both countries” was established. Korean students, who graduated high schools, were invited to the departments of science and technology of Japanese national universities and learned for four years. Since the year 2000 when this program started, about two thousand Korean students have studied under this program.



Regret to say, however, this program ended in 2018.



In October, 1998, there was a memorable change. The Korean Government released Japanese public cultures which were prohibited to import and we were able to touch with Japanese public cultures like movies or cartoons legally.



Unfortunate to say, I have to touch with “the accident at Shin-okubo station where a passenger fell down from platform”. At around 19:00, on January 26, 2001, a drunken man fall down to railroad track and a Japanese cameraman together with Korean students jumped down on the track to save him. But, unfortunately, all three of them were run over by the train to death. A plate for morning and praising for the death of victims were founded at stairs just between the platform and the ticket gate of the station. On January 26, every year, they have a remembrance event for Lee Su-hyon, Korean student who passed away at the accident. “LSH(initials of Lee Su-hyon) Scholarship” was established by voluntary fund-raising of the people and is said to be a symbol of friendship between Korea and Japan.      



Success in the FIFA World Cup in 2002, which was jointly organized by Korea and Japan is still fresh in our memories. On December 19, 2002, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as 16th President against all the expectations. He visited Japan from June 6 to 9, 2003, held summit meetings and spoke with political figures. He also made a speech at the Japanese parliament, and appeared on the TBS news program, “Hundred People Hundred Heats, President Roh Moo-Hyun’s Real Intent”, and had heart to heart talks with Japanese people for around one and half hour. Looking back from now on, it is an exceptional thing and I think that it is necessary now.



It is the millennium now for both countries. Both of us, Korea and Japan, cannot forget have started to deepen mutual understanding through exchanges based on human love and dialogue. (To be Continue)


SGRA Kawaraban 611 in Japanese (Original)


Cho_Suil / Graduated School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, Fellowships from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science


Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala