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00707012
2012.01
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KOREAN

Cultural Exchange: A Shortcut to Goodwill and Cooperation  Korea-Japan Youth Exchange Program Spawns Fresh Insights

Under the Korea’s Foundation’s “Korea-Japan Youth Exchange” program, a delegation of 28 Korean university students visited Japan for 10 days starting on November 8, 2011. During their visit, the student delegates mingled with their Japanese counterparts and actively exchanged their views on various subjects beyond national boundaries. Through these activities, the participating students from both countries acquired fresh perspectives toward each other.

Debate on Bilateral Ties and Future Development

The Korean delegation had constructive discussions on various issues of mutual concern with our hosts at Mejiro University and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. At Mejiro University, we exchanged opinions with Japanese students on such matters as the direction of Japan’s development and ways to increase bilateral relations between our two countries. Regarding the “measures to transform Japanese cities into international cities,” there was general agreement on the need to adopt various changes to make their cities more foreigner-friendly.

During our visit to the Foreign Ministry, we had an opportunity to hear the thoughts of Japanese officials in regard to some sensitive issues between our two countries. But it was rather disappointing that, on the issues of World War II sex slaves and the territorial dispute over Dokdo island, the officials merely reiterated the Japanese government’s official position without mentioning any substantive details. It seemed that closer cooperation was needed between the two governments to resolve these problems.

Japan’s Efforts to Safeguard Traditional Culture

The Korean delegation of the KF’s 2011 Korea-Japan Youth Exchange Program visits the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. During the first four days, we visited a number of tourist attractions in Tokyo, where tradition coexists with modernity. Such tourist spots as Roppongi Hills, Akihabara, and Odaiba radiated their quiet charm, quite different from the ambience of Seoul. The most intriguing site was Asakusa Shrine, which appeals to visitors with its traditional elements found within a modern cityscape. While touring around Tokyo, I thought a lot about harmonious coexistence and convergence as well as how to enhance Korea’s cultural appeal.

Our next destination was Nagoya, where we looked around Nagoya Castle, an ancient structure boasting an aura of stately tradition. But to me even more memorable was my homestay experience. When I first met my host family, I was quite nervous but also thrilled. During my stay at their house, I was able to experience the everyday life of a typical Japanese family and we were able to increase our understanding of each other’s culture through friendly conversation.

Then, our delegation traveled to the cities of Kyoto and Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, where traditional culture and custom have been carefully preserved. While looking around the Toyota Shirakawa-go Eco-Institute and Shirakawa Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site, I was impressed by the way the Japanese people try to live in harmony with nature.

In Kyoto, too, we could witness the local residents’ efforts to safeguard their time-old cultural heritage. Volunteer citizen groups, like the Kyomachiya Revitalization Study Group, are at the forefront of the preservation efforts to hand down the city’s precious heritage to future generations, from which

Korea should learn to properly preserve and manage its cultural resources. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, another World Heritage site, is an exquisite structure drawing admiration from numerous foreign visitors. As Korea also has many impressive ancient architectural monuments, it needs to continuously endeavor to have them inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Cultural Exchange for Closer Cooperation

Relations between Korea and Japan have been complicated and often strained due to pending issues like the “comfort women” and Dokdo disputes. Through my visit to Japan, however, I have come to believe that if the two countries overcome their unfortunate past and better understand each other, they will be able to cooperate more closely to achieve sustainable development for common prosperity.

Apart from the diplomatic issues, people-to-people exchanges continue between the two countries. For example, Korean popular culture has spread throughout Japan, while many Korean TV viewers enjoy Japanese dramas. Cultural exchange provides a “string of hope” that can better connect the two countries and increase bilateral cooperative relations. Therefore, both nations should place more emphasis on expanding cultural exchange.

The KF Korea-Japan Youth Exchange is a significant program that provides the next-generation leaders of the two neighbors with opportunities to acquire a deeper understanding of each other’s culture, thereby laying the groundwork to steadily reinforce bilateral ties. My firsthand exposure to Japanese culture made me realize that there are so many cultural elements that can be shared and enjoyed by Koreans and Japanese together. I have thus made up my mind to become more actively involved in whatever areas to help boost cooperative relations between the two nations.

Cultural Exchange: A Shortcut to Goodwill and Cooperation  Korea-Japan Youth Exchange Program Spawns Fresh Insights

Kim Mok-hoe Student, Myongji University

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