Sometimes reversal is easy and effective

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Sometimes reversal is easy and effective

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Aomori is the northernmost part of Honshu, the largest island of Japan known for having the harshest winters and heaviest snowfall in the country. The wind is so fierce around the Tsugaru Strait that snow rises up from the ground. But 20 years ago, young residents came up with the idea of a blizzard experience tour. Tourists ride on an old train with coal-fired stoves from nearby Goshogawara to Tsugaru. There they change into traditional winter dress of snow pants, a cape and snowshoes and walk in the blizzard. Tourists from Hawaii and Taiwan rave about the tour. More than 10,000 foreigners have experienced blizzards in Tsugaru. When you change the conventional mind-set, an ordinary snowstorm can become an international attraction.

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka opened in 2001, and attracted 11 million visitors a year in its heyday. But the park was losing its appeal because it had not introduced any new attractions. Then, marketing specialist Takeshi Morioka asked, “Why does a roller coaster always have to go forward?” He proposed making the seats face backward. While engineers were stunned at first, his idea materialized into “Hollywood Dream - The Ride - Backdrop.” Simply by changing direction, visitors were thrilled, and USJ made a comeback. On March 21, 2013, the ride set a record for a waiting time of nine hours and 40 minutes.

We would like to see such a reversal of position from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While he claims to inherit the 1993 Kono Statement that acknowledged the coercive mobilization of wartime sex slaves, he continues to undermine the statement by “verification.” While UN human rights authorities condemn Japan in an unusually harsh tone, the Abe government doesn’t budge. Ultra-rightist newspapers and magazines support Abe and argue the sex slavery issue was fabricated by the Asahi Shimbun. So Abe has nothing to fear, at least domestically.

However, if Abe truly were an astute politician, he could make bold and unconventional changes. How about acknowledging the state-level accountability for the war of aggression and comfort women, offering proper compensation and sincerely apologizing to sex slavery victims at the UN Assembly next month? How about making a concession for the peace of humanity and reconciliation of East Asia, even though personal opinion and the position of his nation differ? Then, Abe might even be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, which his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, whom he admires, couldn’t even dream of. Changing direction is not so difficult. All he has to do is keep up with the rest of the world. But that may be a midsummer night’s dream.

JoongAng Ilbo, August 9, Page 26

* The author is Tokyo bureau chief of the Joong Ang Ilbo.

BY KIM HYUN-KI












Aomori is the northernmost part of Honshu, the largest island of Japan known for having the harshest winters and heaviest snowfall in the country. The wind is so fierce around the Tsugaru Strait that snow rises up from the ground. But 20 years ago, young residents came up with the idea of a blizzard experience tour. Tourists ride on an old train with coal-fired stoves from nearby Goshogawara to Tsugaru. There they change into traditional winter dress of snow pants, a cape and snowshoes and walk in the blizzard. Tourists from Hawaii and Taiwan rave about the tour. More than 10,000 foreigners have experienced blizzards in Tsugaru. When you change the conventional mind-set, an ordinary snowstorm can become an international attraction.

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka opened in 2001, and attracted 11 million visitors a year in its heyday. But the park was losing its appeal because it had not introduced any new attractions. Then, marketing specialist Takeshi Morioka asked, “Why does a roller coaster always have to go forward?” He proposed making the seats face backward. While engineers were stunned at first, his idea materialized into “Hollywood Dream - The Ride - Backdrop.” Simply by changing direction, visitors were thrilled, and USJ made a comeback. On March 21, 2013, the ride set a record for a waiting time of nine hours and 40 minutes.

We would like to see such a reversal of position from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While he claims to inherit the 1993 Kono Statement that acknowledged the coercive mobilization of wartime sex slaves, he continues to undermine the statement by “verification.” While UN human rights authorities condemn Japan in an unusually harsh tone, the Abe government doesn’t budge. Ultra-rightist newspapers and magazines support Abe and argue the sex slavery issue was fabricated by the Asahi Shimbun. So Abe has nothing to fear, at least domestically.

However, if Abe truly were an astute politician, he could make bold and unconventional changes. How about acknowledging the state-level accountability for the war of aggression and comfort women, offering proper compensation and sincerely apologizing to sex slavery victims at the UN Assembly next month? How about making a concession for the peace of humanity and reconciliation of East Asia, even though personal opinion and the position of his nation differ? Then, Abe might even be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, which his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, whom he admires, couldn’t even dream of. Changing direction is not so difficult. All he has to do is keep up with the rest of the world. But that may be a midsummer night’s dream.

JoongAng Ilbo, August 9, Page 26

* The author is Tokyo bureau chief of the Joong Ang Ilbo.

BY KIM HYUN-KI




























일본의 본토 북단인 아오모리(靑森)현의 겨울은 매섭다. 적설량은 전국 1위. 특히 동해와 접한 쓰가루(津軽)해협 주변의 겨울 칼바람은 눈이 하늘에서 내리는 게 아니라 땅밑에서 솟아오르게 한다. 강한 눈보라에 시야는 기껏해야 1m. 현지 주민들조차 고개를 절래절래 흔든다. 그런데 20여 년 전 쓰가루의 청년들이 역발상을 했다. 이름하여 '눈보라 체험 투어'. 먼저 인근 고쇼가와라(五所川原) 시에서 운치있는 석탄난로 열차편으로 관광객을 쓰가루 가나기(金木) 마을로 안내한다. 여기서 관광객들은 쓰가루 특유 방한복인 몬빼(작업용 바지), 가쿠마키(담요로 만든 어깨걸이), 간지키(눈 위를 걷기 위한 신발)로 갈아입는다. 준비가 완료되면 눈보라 입장!. 이 '사서 하는 고생'에 하와이·대만 등 눈 구경 해 본 적 없는 외국 관광객들은 열광한다. 지금까지 투어에 참가한 외국인만 1만 명 이상. 별것 아닌 눈보라도 생각을 바꾸니 세계적 관광상품이 된 것이다.
오사카의 놀이시설 '유니버설스튜디오 재팬(USJ)'. 2001년 개업 초기 연간 1100만 명의 고객이 몰려왔지만 점차 고객이 격감했다. 새로운 히트 놀이기구가 등장하지 않았기 때문이다. USJ을 구한 건 외부 영입된 마케팅 전문가 모리오카 다케시의 역발상. "왜 롤러코스터는 앞으로만 가야 하냐." 그의 역주행 코스터 도입 주장에 기술자들은 "전례가 없다"며 손사래를 쳤다. 하지만 결국 그의 아이디어로 '할리우드 드림 더 라이드~백 드롭'이란 역주행 코스터가 탄생했다. 방향 하나 바꾼 역발상에 고객은 환호하고 USJ는 부활했다. 작년 3월21일 이 놀이기구는 '줄서는 시간 9시간 40분'이란 신기록까지 세웠다.
이렇듯 감탄스런 일본의 역발상을 나열한 건 다름 아닌 아베 신조 일본 총리의 역발상을 기대하는 마음에서다.
말로는 위안부 동원의 강제성을 인정한 고노담화를 계승한다면서 '검증'이란 이름으로 흠집내기에 나서고, 유엔의 인권 수장이 전례없이 강한 톤으로 질타해도 "우린 최대한 노력해 왔다"며 꿈쩍않는 아베 정권. 우익 꼴통 신문·주간지가 행동대장이 돼 "위안부는 아사히신문에 의해 날조된 것"이라고 기세를 올려주니 아베로선 두려울 게 없다. 국내만 보면 그렇다.
하지만 아베가 진짜로 영리한 정치인이라면 보다 통큰 역발상을 할 수 있지 않을까. 가령 다음달 유엔총회장에서 "침략전쟁과 위안부 문제에 대한 일본의 국가책임을 인정하고 배상할 것 하고, 한국의 위안부 할머니들에게 무릎 꿇고 사죄하겠다"고 선언한다면…. "기존 입장, 본인의 신념과 차기아 나긴 하지만 인류 평화·동아시아 화해를 위해 내가 통 크게 물러서겠다"고 한다면….
그리도 존경하는 외조부 기시 노부스케도 엄두내지 못했던 노벨평화상을 못 타란 법도 없다. 어려운 역발상도 아니다. 눈높이를 '밖의 세상'에 맞추기만 하면 된다. 음, 아무래도 일장하몽(一場夏夢) 일까.
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