[Viewpoint] Spreading the word about Dokdo

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[Viewpoint] Spreading the word about Dokdo

At the end of last summer, my university had a faculty meeting at a hotel in a resort outside Seoul.

After the event was over, I stopped by an amusement park nearby on my own. I wanted to go there because I heard that there was a Buddhist temple that was built during the Silla Dynasty.

Unlike when I went up the hill to the park, when I went down the path I was filled with excitement. It was more like a sincere wish and it was so intense that it required me to think and act on a different level. Perhaps the spirit of all the monks who have walked the path and meditated there a long time had touched me. I found myself thinking about what I should do while I’m in this world, and I even found myself making resolutions.

As a scholar who has studied sovereignty issues relating to the Dokdo islets, I need to find a perfect way to make not only Korea but also Japan, the United States and the entire world accept the fact that Dokdo is Korea’s territory.

That is not an impossible task.

We need to persuade one country after another, step by step. I felt a strong wish to pursue this goal, even if I only help a little. The wish came to me on the way up to the temple, and by the time I walked back down it had become a concrete thought.

Unbelievably, my wish eventually started to materialize into reality.

My first step was to get approval to give lectures to Japanese students who had come to Korea to study. The initial lecture focused on the history of relations between Korea and Japan; the next covered the Dokdo islets.

After listening to my lecture about the islets, Japanese students said they did not know much about the issue before, but could now understand why the islets could be Korea’s territory.

I felt proud and fulfilled.

In September, some 120 Japanese will visit Korea in order to listen to my lecture.

My university has earned a permit to open a research center on Dokdo and planning for the opening ceremony is under way. Requests to hold lectures, presentations and seminars in the United States and Australia came in as well.

But there is one obstacle: My English is not good enough.

I can do better when I read English texts or listen to spoken English, but I have a harder time speaking it.

So far I have been working hard on Korean and have not worked much on conversational English. That means that even if I make a firm resolution to let the world know about Korea’s sovereignty over Dokdo, I will hit many walls.

Meanwhile, the Washington Special Committee on the Dokdo Issue has asked me to give a presentation on the issue early this month at the Press Center in Washington, D.C.

This is a big deal for me, but it has also created a near panic because my English-speaking skills leave something to be desired.

I thought about attending English classes in a private institute, but I did not have time.

A month and a half ago, I asked my assistant to find someone who could give me private lessons. I was introduced to two Americans who taught me English once or twice a week.

Recently I read a book that said, “When learning English one should not learn letters and grammar first but should start learning how it sounds. It is the same when leaning other languages. One should build a special sector for each language.”

I did as the book said.

I changed my learning method and focused on the sounds and rhythm of the language and it seemed to work. The other day I gave a mock presentation before the Americans. They were stunned. They said I worked hard and prepared well.

If one masters many languages, one can work in a wider world and pursue in depth in one’s career or life goals.

I have Korean, Japanese, English and Chinese to work on. If I master more languages, I can spread the word about the Dokdo issue to the wider world.

* The writer is a professor of Japanese studies at Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yuji Hosaka
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