[FOUNTAIN]Living With the (Former) Enemy

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[FOUNTAIN]Living With the (Former) Enemy

Last year, the jury of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic gave Lee Chang-dong's "Peppermint Candy" ("Bakha Satang") a special jury prize.

Karlovy Vary - or in German, Karlsbad - means "Karl's Hot Spring." Karlsbad is also mentioned in "Italienische Reise," a great book by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This record of Goethe's travels around Italy begins as he departed from Karlsbad at 3 a.m. on Sep. 3, 1786.

Cinematheque Seoul hosted a retrospective of French movie director Alain Resnais at the end of May. In the event, "Last Year at Marienbad," a rather cryptic piece by the director, was screened. Marienbad is the French way of reading Marianske Lazne, a town in the Czech Republic.

The two towns, Karlsbad and Marianske Lazne, are located in the northeast of the Czech Republic. For hundreds of years, Germans lived in the region. Germans call the area Sudetenland. In 1938, Nazi Germany, hungry for more land, concluded the Munich Agreement with Britain and France, and Germany annexed Sudetenland based on this agreement. Hitler colonized other parts of the Czech Republic and began a cruel reign over the region in which many innocent people were massacred. After the end of World War II, 3 million Germans then living in the region were driven back to Germany, and during this process hundreds of thousands of Germans lost their lives. All the Czech names of cities and streets were restored.

The Czech government today requires junior high school students to study either German or English for six years. Despite unhappy relations in the past, German is an important foreign language in the Czech Republic because of Germany's geographic, cultural and economic proximity.

Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne, which developed around their hot springs, are flooded with German tourists because of low prices and easy communications; trains provide information in German. It reflects the Czechs' open-mindedness that they consider the Nazis of the past and the Germans of the present two separate groups. And in fact, Korea has managed to coexist similarly with Japan since World War II.

Recently, the Japanese government angered its neighbors by approving a textbook which distorts history. In return, the Korean National Railroad stopped providing information in Japanese language on trains. However, the suspension was only in place one day and we feel that it was an extremely petty measure.

To tackle these obstacles and better understand each other, we need more exchanges, not less.

The writer is deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chae In-taek

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