[FOUNTAIN]In the region, conciliation is long overdue

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[FOUNTAIN]In the region, conciliation is long overdue

Japanese writer Hiroshi Morris calls himself a “writer of nationality.” He is famous for his critical works on the exclusionary nature of Japanese people against foreigners and how they value ethnic homogeneity. He criticized the national narcissism and cruel exclusionism of the Japanese in “Boundless Family” and “Boundless People.” He claims that except for the fact of holding Japanese citizenship, there is no other significance to being Japanese.
On the other side of his criticism, he unfolds a theory that Japan could attain true reconciliation with its neighbors only if it breaks away from misguided historical and cultural concepts. So he asks whether the Ainu, the Wilta ― a minority ethnic group on Sakhalin ― the natives of Okinawa and the natives of Ogasawara are included in what Japanese society calls “Japanese.” How about ethnic Koreans who stayed on after World War II and their descendants? Are they going to be always considered gaijin, foreigners? Or are they Japanese with a unique culture just like the countless social groups and communities existing in Japan? As a response to the questions he posed, Mr. Morris co-authored “Overcoming Nationalism” with Kang Sang-jung, a Korean-Japanese scholar teaching at Tokyo University.
While Mr. Morris focuses on criticizing the widespread exclusionism of the Japanese and Japanese culture, his criticism also applies to Koreans, who value ethnic homogeneity, and the Chinese, who have a sense of superiority for being Chinese. Most Koreans feel enthusiastic about and proud of Chang-Rae Lee and Anatoli Kim. But when asked whether ethnic Koreans living in China and Russia are Koreans and whether their cultures are a part of Korea, many are hesitant to accept the expatriates as Korean.
Korea, China and Japan are riding a new wave. Yes, there are nationalistic collisions on the Internet, but in this global era, boundaries are falling away.
In the history of Korea, Japan and China, the three countries share so much that many events cannot be confined to the history of only one country. In the 21st century, the three neighbors need to transcend the closed thinking that a certain people or culture are superior to another. For the new millennium of reconciliation and prosperity, what we need more than nationalism is a spirit of exchange and cooperation.


by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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