Saying farewell to Japan

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Saying farewell to Japan

I had to fight back tears as I said goodbye to Mr. Masahiro Morohashi five days ago. As I wrapped up my service as a Tokyo correspondent to leave for a new post soon after, he said, “I am sorry to have caused you trouble.”

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, I was touring a foundry in Takashimizu, Akita Prefecture. During the tour, a major earthquake hit the region. Everyone there had to spend the night in the dark. But early the next morning, Morohashi came to find us instead of going to the factory that had been destroyed in the disaster.

He gave us homemade rice balls and provided us with a bus. He was worried about the long journey and found us an extra driver. His consideration, warmth and preparedness impressed all of us. He didn’t cause any trouble. He saved our lives.

As I interviewed former Tokyo University president Shigehiko Hasumi when he first took the post, he said, “true reconciliation between Korea and Japan would be possible a century after the end of the war.” The 70th anniversary is coming up in two months.

Now, I vaguely understand what he meant. The lanterns of hope are the young people of the two countries. In a joint opinion survey by the JoongAng Ilbo and Nikkei on June 1, the only age group with a more positive attitude towards the other country were respondents in their 20s.

When the Korea-Japan relationship is considered to be at its worst ever, why do young people feel differently? It is the power of cultural and youth exchanges.

When you make friends with people from another country at a young age and accumulate positive experiences, your overall attitude changes. When they grow older and become the main force in society, this DNA will be passed down.

Amid the MERS scare, fans of TVXQ filled 14 regular flights and five charter flights to attend the Seoul concert.

There was one thing I always wanted to tell dear Crown Prince Naruhito. For true reconciliation between the two countries, I believe that the royal family, not the prime minister, should extend a hand. The imperial house has a more profound significance. The emperor’s visit to Korea has considerable realistic obstacles. But how about the crown prince visiting Korea as an icon of the future? There would be relatively less challenges.

With all the political contexts excluded, imagine him playing viola with young Koreans and Japanese musicians on the banks of the Baekma River, reminiscing about the ancient Baekje Kingdom, the ancestors of the Japanese imperial family. Then we could dream about new bilateral ties for the next 50 years. History begins from brave decisions.

The last 12 years have been long. I’ve experienced many things during my time in Japan. While packing, I found 77 volumes of reporting notes filled with both love and hate for Japan. But as I leave, I am only taking fond memories. Thank you all, and sayonara.

*The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 16, Page 30


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