A step closer to cooperationKorea, China and Japan are three major pillars of a culture where Chinese characters are widely used. Even when people from the three countries cannot speak one another’s language, they still can communicate when they write down their thoughts in Chinese characters.
Just like one needs to learn the Latin language to understand classic European literature, citizens of the three Asian nations need to know how to read and write Chinese characters as they are a crucial medium which allows intellectual and cultural exchange among the three countries.
That’s why a committee comprised of 30 famous people representing Korea, China and Japan recently came up with the 800 most commonly used Chinese characters.
The bigwigs at the 8th annual conference on “Future-oriented cooperation among Korea, China and Japan” in Hokkaido, Japan earlier this week compared Korea’s 900 basic Chinese characters with China’s 2,500 commonly-used characters and Japan’s elementary-level 1,006 characters before settling on the 800. If the younger generation of the three countries learns them, it will lay the foundation for a further understanding of each other’s language and culture. We hope the decision will facilitate exchanges on intellectual and humanities issues in the future.
While the 800 characters are commonly used in the three countries, they are often different in form. While Koreans use traditional Chinese characters, both the Japanese and Chinese use their own versions of simplified forms. Therefore, the meaning of the same Chinese character is sometimes different.
That said, the three countries need to review and discuss the tricky issue of sharing the 800 characters in real life. We hope the secretariat of the trilateral conference rolls up its sleeves to find effective ways for the three governments to take advantage of the same 800 characters. It could be of help if they mandate it that all elementary school graduates should be able to read and write the 800 characters.
In the middle of the simmering conflict over historical and territorial issues, a government-level dialogue among the three countries has yet to take place. The trilateral summit meeting among Korea, China and Japan, which was supposed to be held during the first half of the year, couldn’t go ahead, not to mention the scheduled Seoul-Tokyo and Beijing-Tokyo summits.
The civilian-level conference, which presented a new paradigm for cooperation in Northeast Asia, carries a great meaning for a better future in the area. No doubt exchanges in the civilian sector are a stepping-stone for mature cooperation among the three countries.