[Viewpoint] For this rock singer, the eyes have it

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[Viewpoint] For this rock singer, the eyes have it

The eyes are said to mirror the heart. Singer Kim Jang-hoon has unbelievably pure eyes. People’s eyes tend to change as they age. Yet the middle-aged singer’s eyes have retained their innocence.

The rock-ballad singer is well known for his passionate and entertaining live concerts, but he is also widely respected for his humane endeavors. Instead of owning a house, he rents so he can donate more of his earnings to help the poor or contribute to another good cause.

The popular philanthropist, whose name and face I recognized from his frequent mentions in the mass media, came to see me last November in my office at Sejong University. He carried an envelope, and offered a donation to help fund my research on Dokdo and my campaign to raise public awareness of the group of islands that is at the center of a territorial dispute between Korea and Japan.

Sitting face-to-face, I realized he had the most pure, bright eyes I have ever seen. His eyes told of the passion and pureness of his heart. He pledged continued support to active campaigners for Dokdo: Park Ki-tae, head of the civic online activist group VANK, or Voluntary Agency Network of Korea, Professor Seo Kyung-duk and me.

With Kim’s aid, I was able to collect a host of material on Dokdo over the winter break.

In the past, when I came across antique maps I often had to pass them by because of their cost. If I did get a chance to go back for them, they were already sold. Avid private collectors make antique maps hard to come by. Antique maps are in great popular demand at auctions in Japan.

In the past I had lost important material related to Dokdo because I had been ready to buy too late. Even if I applied for funds from Korean government organizations, the paperwork took months and by the time the funding came through, the maps were already in other people’s hands. But I cannot blame the Korean state-run organizations for their thorough examination because they can be railed against during parliamentary questioning if budgets are recklessly spent.

The Dokdo Museum in Ullengdo has a stock of valuable ancient material on the islets because its first director, Lee Jong-hak, devoted all his wealth to collect them. But intelligence and passion alone cannot purchase relics; private funding is needed. That’s why Kim’s charity was so invaluable.

The material and maps I collected this winter include an original map of Japan that’s about 150 to 200 years old. Some of this material will be displayed in March during a special exhibition on historic maps on Dokdo and the East Sea at the National Assembly library.

During my pilgrimage this winter, I discovered that Japanese state organizations have hidden material and maps that are disadvantageous to their historic claims.

I raised this issue with the Seoul bureau chief of a Japanese newspaper. He promised to investigate, agreeing that it would gravely affect relations between Korea and Japan if Japan had intentionally concealed material to support its territorial claim over the disputed islets.

This year marks a century since Japan’s colonized occupation of Korea. More people with pure hearts from the two countries should step up and join hands to reinvent bilateral relations.

*The writer is a Japanese-Korean professor at the College of Liberal Arts, Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yuji Hosaka
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