Japanese comic book warns of nuclear dangers

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Japanese comic book warns of nuclear dangers

"Hadashi no Gen" (Barefoot Gen, 1993), a Japanese comic book dealing with the horrors of war and the aftermath of the nuclear bomb's leveling of Hiroshima, has been translated into Korean.

The Korean comic book is the latest version of a cartoon that has had numerous incarnations; as a comic book serialization (1973), a live-action movie (1976), an opera (1981) and an animated film (1983). "Gen" is the name of the boy who is the cartoon's main character; "Barefoot" refers to the boy's strong will, unafraid to walk the ruins of a war-torn city.

The author, Keiji Nakazawa, was himself a victim of the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Nakazawa was a first grader, and has since suffered from medical problems caused by the high levels of radiation he endured. But he was lucky. His father, sister and brother perished in their house when the atomic winds caused the roof to collapse.

The translation of "Hadashi no Gen," already in 10 other languages, was done by Kim Song-ih. Mrs. Kim, 56, started the initial two volumes of "Hadashi no Gen," a 10-volume series, in 1995 after receiving permission from the author.

But Mrs. Kim's background as a North Korean and a teacher at a North Korean-operated school in Japan prevented her from publishing the book in South Korea. That opportunity arose when Mrs. Kim became a South Korean citizen two years ago.

"The first time I saw the cartoon was in the early 1980s, when my little boy brought it home and asked me to read it," says Mrs. Kim. "I did not think much of it at first and didn't want to read it. But my son kept pestering me. So I started to reading, and ended up reading until late into the night."

After Mrs. Kim learned that the cartoon had been translated into other languages, but not Korean, she knew that she had found a worthwhile task.

"This is not just a simple anti-war story," Mrs. Kim says. "It also contains sharp criticism of Japanese militarism, and shows a strong boy trying to survive in a war-torn country. The courage that he displays is definitely something that all readers should take as an example."

The comic book and movie come with a message. "I just hope that our youngsters realize the dangers of nuclear weapons, and the horrors that result from their use," she says.

She says she hopes the comic book will create awareness about the Koreans who also suffered in the nuclear attacks, but have received little recognition in Japan or elsewhere.

by Jung Hyung-mo

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