SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

LI Kotetsu “Career and Calling”

Recently, we had a course “career design” at our university. At first, I did not know its meaning. As I was assigned to be in charge of this course, I read the book “Introduction to Carrier Design for University Students” and studied it. From this book, I learned “Career Design connect how to work with and how to live in our social activities. It makes us think, plan, and carry out our work in our social lives”. I asked my students to write a report under the title “A job that I would like to get”, and present “How to live a 100-year life?” using a power point. They examined various materials and presented their opinions.


However, I am always thinking something is lacking in Japanese school education. As I have never taught in primary, middle and high schools in Japan, I have no choice but to presume through my personal interviews how they are educated. What is lacking? Through my over thirty years’ observation in Japan, I realized that the role of education in Japan is the bring-up of salaried workers. I know a lot of salaried workers are necessary for the establishment of society. I think “carrier design” is necessary for this purpose. However, I cannot be satisfied.


I found an answer to this question in an essay by my Korean friend. I was introduced to him, at the “World Pease Forum” in the Philippines last December. He showed me my illustration as a lecturer and took a photo with him. We met together in Japan and Korea twice. I was surprised when I heard that he is a day laborer at construction sites. He is researching the depths of human beings and society by observing workers directly at sites and appealing to society through his illustrations. I was just to admire his wonderful way of living.


His essay which was published in a Korean newspaper flashed into my mind. There are three kinds of human jobs. The first is a job. The second is a career that can utilized our talent and technology at the office or in society. And the third is ‘calling’. I have heard a debate in Japan “Is school teacher a job or calling?”. But I did not know about ‘calling’ more than that. And I looked it up in the dictionary and found its meaning “call, cry, roll call, summon, the will of God, occupation, strong impulse, desire, propensity”.


I asked ChatGPT “How do I to understand ‘calling’?” and got a reply saying “Calling means: to feel an essential purpose or sense of mission in one’s lifestyle or job. And it is more than that of one’s occupation or job and links up strongly with a personal sense of value or passion”. I was very satisfied with this answer. It leads to the words of Confucius, Chinese saint, “At the age of fifty, I knew the will of heaven”. Last week, I asked my students “What is a carrier?” before my lecture and explained about “three kinds of human jobs”. As they were listening to my explanation with their eyes wide open, I understood it was the first time for them to hear that. In society, it is said “Education in Japan does not teach students to make them have a dream” or “There is no philosophy in Japanese education”. If so, we must teach students about not only ‘job’ and ‘career’ but also ‘calling’. I think it is necessary to educate students so that they can complete their ‘jobs’ having noble ideals and dreams and polish their ‘carriers’.


When I reflect on my life, I have been told and educated in my elementary school for the purpose of doing my best for my life saying, “We actualize communism in the world” and study “for the purpose of freedom of the worldwide proletariat.” Since I was a kid, I have taken it seriously. Of course, now I can understand it negatively as ideological education by communism. However, in the sense of acquiring knowledge of my view of life for the happiness of human beings, there is something in common with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). At last year’s forum of SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association), we took up the slogans “Not leaving anybody” and “For good global citizens”. I think there is common thinking. And what I encountered with SGRA was an opportunity that has awakened my other “calling”.


People have various ways of thinking about how to achieve those goals through communism through capitalism or through the third road? But the slogan “Not leaving anybody” is excellent. If we could foster our philosophy of life by those thoughts, how wonderful a human being life would be!


I grew up having a good dream at school. But, once I became a member of society, it became my important issue: how to survive in a poor rural area. In order to break away from such poverty, I studied very hard ‘to death’ for the exam for four years, engaging in agricultural labor, and entered university in Beijing, which 800 million Chinese people admire. My life changed 180 degrees. At this university, I was educated by communism. I became a member of the Communist Party and swore in front of the Party flag “I struggle lifelong for the materialization of Communism in the world”.


After that, I went to graduate school and became a university teacher. In 1989, I joined students’ demonstrations at Tiananmen Square and sent a cheer to students who called for political reform. However, I watched this demonstration, which was suppressed by armed forces and felt disillusioned with the ideals of the Communist Party and Communism.  And I abandoned my job and decided to go to Japan which is capitalistic and free.


I came to Japan from nothing, without any purpose, dream or money. I was wondering for ten years about having residential status such as ‘pre-school student’ or ‘student studying abroad’ and making my living by a part-time job. I had no objectives for studying in Japan, despite having finished graduate school and becoming a teacher. I may have liked to find any opportunity, but it was not easy.


In order to extend my visa, after Japanese language school, I had to go to graduate school. At graduate school, I studied international economics and encountered a research theme named “International Development Scheme at the Tumen River Region”. It is a scheme under which three countries – China, North Korea and Russia – develop the Tumen River region together under the United Nation Development Program. The Chinese side of this region is my home country. As I have already mastered Chinese and Chosun languages and am studying Russian now, I am convinced that “this research is my lifework”. I did not know the word ‘calling’ at that time.


There are few people at universities in Tokyo who research this theme. A teacher at my master’s degree told me “Mr. Li, you cannot make a living in Japan by researching such theme”. But I did not give up. I pushed myself forward and got a destined encounter, and I could finally be a member of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research and take care of a project called “Scheme of Establishment of the Northeast Asian Development Bank”. We made a policy proposal to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. I started my life as a ‘carrier’. I was assigned to be a researcher at NIRA (Nippon Institute for Research Advancement) and participated in various projects, including ‘Scheme for the Future of Northeast Asia’. As a result of such research, I am now teaching ‘the Northeast Asian economy’ at our university.


I established INAF (Institute for Northeast Asia Future) together with volunteers three years ago. I made up my mind to do my best for the materialization of peace and prosperity in this area by spending my entire life. Such research and activity would be my ‘calling’.



SGRA Kawaraban 744 in Japanese (Original)



LI Kotetsu -1999 Raccoon



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English was checked by Sabina Koirala