Attempt to Bridge The Two Countries
The relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea stay soured at the moment in the height of a territorial dispute over an uninhabited islet in the Sea of Japan (called the East Sea in Korea). Before the issue assumed serious proportions, a student organization devoted to bilateral cultural exchanges held an open symposium in Tokyo on Aug. 15.
It was the main event at the annual joint convention of the Japan-Korea Student Conference and its Korean counterpart, the Korea-Japan Student Conference, which took place at the National Olympic Memorial Youth Center in Yoyogi on Aug. 5-18. The two chapters meet alternately each year in their respectively countries.
The forum was founded in 1985 by three student volunteers each from Japan and Korea for the primary purpose of promoting mutual understanding between the two countries. The Japanese chapter of the conference meets regularly from 1 pm to 5 pm every Saturday. Its main activities include publication of an organ newspaper, study of the Korean language and preparations for the annual joint convention.
During this year’s joint meeting, the 27th in annual series, the participants had more than 30 hours of discussion in their native languages through interpreters, wrote reports on various themes and presented them to the symposium. The two-week convention consisted of four subcommittee sessions, the symposium, cultural exchange programs and field trips, an open-air exchange event. The subjects discussed ranged from unemployment, dwindling birthrate and an aging population to state-sponsored scholarships, violent footage and education.
The symposium came in two parts. In one of them, selected Japanese and Korean students presented their reports suggesting solutions to the issues they addressed. Other students helped them as interpreters. A question-and-answer session followed. Many of the speakers looked quite nervous but made their presentation earnestly. During a break that followed, they spoke with other students and some of the audiences in a friendly atmosphere.
The second part of the symposium was devoted to a special lecture on mutual understanding by Mr. Abito Ito, a Waseda University professor of cultural anthropology and folklore. He dwelt on his own experiences he had during his numerous visits to South Korea, often leading his audiences to burst out laughing. One of his impressive remarks was that few Japanese scholars interested in Korea have ever visited the country in person.
No tense air was discernible at the symposium. Rather it was quite homely and friendly presumably because it was held before the territorial dispute came to the fore.
With the two-week event, the Japan-Korea Student Conference wound up its activity for its 27th year. But it immediately began recruiting new members for the 28th year. You can perhaps take the opportunity to deepen your interest in Korea.
Writen by: Tomomi Kubota