Forum agrees on common Chinese characters

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Forum agrees on common Chinese characters

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A trio of three representatives from Asian nations - South Korea, Japan and China - pose for a photograph yesterday at a joint symposium in Hokkaido to discuss the adoption of 800 commonly used Chinese characters. From right: Lee Hong-gu, former Korean prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, former Japanese prime minister and Zeng Peiyan, former Chinese vice premier. By Park Jong-geun

HOKKAIDO - At a joint symposium between Korea, Japan and China, 30 experts in finance, trade, energy, environment, education and culture gathered here to adopt 800 commonly-used Chinese characters to use between the three countries yesterday.

The two-day Northeast Asia Trilateral Forum of 30 prominent experts from political, business and academic sectors kicked off Sunday in the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa to discuss ways to bolster cultural and educational cooperation.

While these three neighboring countries are riddled with ongoing historical and territorial disputes, for the first time they agreed to adopt the measure to allocate standard Chinese characters and convey it back to their home governments.

“The three countries sometimes squabble and snarl at each other, but are destined to be bonded because of location, history and people,” Yasuo Fukuda, former Japanese prime minister, said. “Having common words in Korean, Chinese and Japanese is absolutely necessary for mutual understanding.” He added it is a time of “glocalization” a portmanteau of globalization and localization.

The forum, co-sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo, China’s Xinhua News Agency and Japan’s Nikkei, is aimed at boosting nongovernmental exchanges among the three countries.

Deciding to adopt unified standard Chinese characters was first proposed by the Korean delegation to the symposium three years ago.

Japan’s Kyoto University helped narrow down 1,006 characters commonly used in Japanese education that overlapped with 2,500 characters commonly used by China, coming up with a shortlist of 995 characters. Combined with 995 characters commonly used by Koreans, the final 800 characters were selected. Korean language derives many Chinese characters through hanja and likewise the Japanese use Chinese characters for one of their three writing systems, kanji.

The forum said in statement, “If the youth of the three countries become familiar with the 800 Chinese characters, this will set the intellectual foundation to understanding each others’ language to a certain extent.”

The forum will be held in the fall in China to further discuss how to utilize the shared Chinese characters. This forum between the three countries is the most senior-level meeting between Japan and China since bilateral relations deteriorated last September over the Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu by Beijing, in the East China Sea.

BY KIM HYUN-KI [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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