Back to the future, regardless of the past

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Back to the future, regardless of the past

Oct. 21, 2015, is the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly travel to in the movie “Back to the Future 2.” High school student Marty and scientist Doc fly 30 years into the future in a DeLorean time machine. The movie features various high-tech devices, including a flat-screen television with video calling capabilities, a tablet PC, wearable virtual-reality glasses, a one-touch order system and a fingerprint door lock - items we use every day. But 30 years ago, they were a wild dream. Last week, I watched this movie again and was impressed at how precisely it predicted what 2015 would be like in the 1980s.

The DeLorean uses gasoline and plutonium as fuel. But in reality, we have developed more environmentally friendly fuel cell vehicles that use no gasoline. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air and generates electricity to produce steam. It is a concept of a completely pollution-free vehicle that even the DeLorean hadn’t achieved. It is not in the incubation stage; Hyundai Motor and Toyota have begun selling them. We have gone beyond the dreams of the movie.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Korea and Japan. But the bilateral relationship began to work in the ’80s, about the time when “Back to the Future 2” was made. Let’s turn back the clock.

In January 1983, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone made the first state visit to Korea for a summit meeting, the first since normalization. In the following year, President Chun Doo-hwan went to Japan and declared the beginning of a “new partnership.” The Japanese emperor expressed regrets over the tragic history and promised not to repeat the past. It was the time when Korea and Japan drew the “dream of the future.” Thirty years later, the leaders of Korea and Japan don’t even look at each other. The people of Korea and Japan consider each other “unbearable neighbors.” It is embarrassing how the relationship has regressed.

Let’s imagine what it might be like in 2045.

A Dokdo tour is popular among the Japanese, and middle and high school students in Korea and Japan use the same history textbook. The two countries share electricity through a unified grid. An undersea tunnel has been constructed, and it takes less than 1 hour to travel between Busan and Fukuoka. The rest stop in the middle of the undersea tunnel is named Sycamore, a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation. Who knows, this may be a precise prediction of the future.

But the fantastic future doesn’t come automatically. Nothing is attained without sincere efforts. It is the lesson of “Back to the Future 2” to both Korea and Japan.

The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 31, Page 30


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