Breaking the ice

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Breaking the ice

South Korea, China and Japan agreed over the weekend to enhance exchanges among municipalities and joint cultural projects at a two-day meeting between culture ministers in Yokohama, Japan. Under the Yokohama Joint Statement, the three countries named Cheongju, South Korea, Qingdao, China, and Nigata, Japan, as “Culture Cities of East Asia” for 2015.

The cultural agreement comes amid worsening political tensions in East Asia due to conflict over territorial and historical issues. The three countries share a long history of similar Confucianism-based culture and values and Chinese character-based language and art heritage. Deeper cultural understanding and exchanges can help increase peace and prosperity in the region. Without cultural understanding, an Asian era will never arrive.

In the meeting, Japanese Culture Minister Hakubun Shimomura suggested the application of the 808 Chinese characters commonly used in the three nations in cultural exchanges. In working-level discussions, the three countries agreed that the designation of characters in use as common written language would be meaningful. Last year, 30 experts from the three nations compiled a list of 808 characters that are commonly used. China, Japan and Korea in the latest meeting discussed including common characters used on road signs, at shops, and in school courses.

Shared Chinese characters were not included in the final statement, but after more study, the three countries are expected to reach an agreement on the scope of their application. The expansion of commonly used Chinese characters can help raise awareness of common heritage among the three nations to accelerate academic exchanges. People of the three countries will be able to feel the shared culture when they see the same familiar characters on signs. The icy tripartite relationship shows signs of thawing. A tripartite summit that has been suspended for two years could be possible. Expanding the use of common characters can help break the ice for good. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 2, Page 34

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