[FOUNTAIN]Neighborly suggestionsAcross the sea, Tottori Prefecture in Japan has special historical ties with Korea. In January 1819, Akasaki authorities rescued a Joseon merchant ship adrift off the coast.
Capt. An Eui-gi and 11 other crew members were on the ship that had departed Pyeonghae County, Gangwon Province, today’s Uljin in North Gyeongsang Province, and got caught in a storm. The crew stayed for three months, then the ship returned to the port of Busan in September via Nagasaki and Tsushima.
Capt. An wrote, “It is very regrettable that I had to go back home before repaying your kindness. Now that we part, I wonder if we can meet again.”
A scroll containing the writing was discovered in 1991. It is known as “A Painting of a Joseon Castaway.” Upon returning home, Capt. An sent gifts of thanks to Tsushima to be delivered to Tottori. The exchange between Korea and Japan made their distance less.
Today, a park marking the friendship and the exchange between the two nations is located on the coast of Akasaki. Celebrating the exchange more that 180 years ago, the prefectural government built the park in 2003.
The descendants of Capt. An attended the opening ceremony. Governor Yoshihiro Katayama had initiated the search for the descendants. The park features various Korean elements, from a monument resembling the shape of Mount Sorak to a traditional stone statue called a harubang.
Tottori is intertwined with Korea in many ways. The prefecture has established a sisterhood with Gangwon Province. It is the only destination in Northwestern Japan to have a direct flight from Korea.
There is a legend about two mountains in Tottori, the 1,750 meter-high Mount Daisen and neighboring 751 meter-tall Mount Korai.
The majesty of Mount Daisen had spread across the sea to Kara, today’s Korea. On hearing that the God of Kara took Mount Karayama on a ship and crossed the sea to check which one was higher. Mount Daisen stood above the clouds.
God simply gave up and dropped his mountain there. The name Korai uses the same Chinese characters meaning Korea.
The dispute over Dokdo has turned the sea from a water of mutual exchange into a sea of tension.
The waves have subsided as the survey ships stationed at Tottori returned, but the president’s statement is likely to bring higher waves.
The exchange between Korea and Japan must not be severed. You might be able to make new allies and alliances, but you can never change your neighbor.
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.