In a classroom in the Sole Community Center in Kochi, my three students sit quietly trying to write their diary entries in Korean. While they write, I’m happily munching snacks. I have been teaching them for 8 months and they are making slow progress. After their work is finished, I listen to what Tsunoda-san has read and shake my head.
“No, in that kind of sentence, you have to use a different expression.” I explain.
“Oh, I see. “Neomu” can be used in here also!” Yamamoto-san claps her hands and replies.
Between Korea and Japan there are complex geographical and historical problems which affect many people on both sides. The two countries have a deep history, with territorial disputes that continue to this day. But despite this, many people are trying to make intercultural connections. Even in Kochi, there is an effort to bridge the gap, person to person, city to city, prefecture to prefecture, country to country.
There are many Koreans living in Japan. As of 2014, there are 497,707 Koreans in Japan. But even so, many Korean and Japanese people have ill feeling toward one another, known as Hannichi Kanjou in Japanese. A large percentage of people in Korea and Japan have negative feeling towards each other.
But then there are people like my Kochi students, Yamamoto-san, Oono-san, Tsunoda-san, who genuinely like Korean people and culture. But it’s not just them. I’ve met lots of Kochi people who have a good feeling towards Korea. There are perhaps a few reasons for this.
First, no doubt, is the “Korean Wave” which has had a great influence on Japan. The Korean Wave was when Korean culture, such as K-Pop and Korean dramas, spread out to the world and being popular.
But there is another, more local connection for Kochi and Korea: a woman from Kochi who worked to save Korean orphans. In Korea she is treated as a great person, and because of her, Kochi has sisterhood relationship with a Korean province, Jeonlanam-do.
Tauchi Chizuko (Korean name is Yoon Hak Ja) was born in Kochi, but went to Mokpo with her family, a city in Korea. At that time, Korea was a colony of Japan. She went to school in Mokpo, Korea, and married a Korean man. They built an orphanage, and took care of the orphans. After Korea became free, she remained in Korea. During the Korean War, which was toccurred in 1950, she helped orphans even though it was terrible environment. She was treated as a bad person for a long time, like try to beat her on the road while she was just walking, only the reason that she is Japanese, but she helped Korean orphans. In Kochi and Korea, she is called as“Mokpo’s mother”. Because of her, Jeonlanam-do, where Mokpo is in, and Kochi have sisterhood relationship. Lots of people were moved by her achievements, and now trying to designate as “World Orphans Day”.
In reality, as a people to people connection, many people want to have a good relations with each other. While some people have ill feelings towards to each other, many people wants to network with each other. In Kochi, there are many people who like to contact and communicate with Korean.
In Kochi, especially elderly people want to learn Korean language. So the Korean people in Kochi, held lessons for them, and have contact with them. Students of these classes gather and have fun and study together.
“We were influenced by Korean wave. I’ve never thought that I’ll be the one person who chase after Korean wave” Tsunoda-san said with big laughs.
“In the newspaper, there was advertisement about Korean lesson in “Kochi Growth Center”. I saw that, and applied to it. And that lesson made me to contact with people who get interested in Korea. Also with Koreans.” Oono-san said.
Their teacher of Korean lesson in Kochi Growth Center is also Korean, Mrs. Cha, and through her, they could have opportunity to know other Korean people in Kochi.
Also, one member of their class who works in Kochi University introduced Korean students from the school. Along with them, Japanese people gather to study more about Korea and learn more deeply things that they couldn’t get through textbooks. But their Korean teachers have changed regularly because they are in Kochi for study and they have to go back to Korea.
“Humm…Well”, Yamamoto-san opened her mouth. “We didn’t have such a bad feelings to Korea also before we learned Korean, even though media said so. And now, after knowing more about Korea, we have come to like Korea and Korean people,” she added with big smile.
“Before, I didn’t know about details of Japan-Korea relationships. Then I found articles in the newspapers after we started studying Korean.”
“And also, at first, we also thought that all Korean people don’t like Japanese. But after we’ve got contact Korean students, we noticed that they are just normal people like us,” she said with very warm smile.
“We want to have more person-to-person contact. And through that, we hope in the future Japan and Korea will have better relations than now,” Tsunoda-san said.
–by Soomin Kim