Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University



The 22nd Japan-Korea Student Forum

Oct 4, 2006

Dialogue and Cultural Exchange between Korean and Japanese Students
(August, 2006)

The Japan-Korea Student Forum has its origins in the Japan-America Student Conference. At first, some of the students who participated in the latter approached the Korean Student Association hoping for the same kind of conference between Korean and Japanese students. Eventually, the forum was established in March 1986 in Seoul. Since then, the Japan-Korea Student Forum has been managed only by students, adopting a non-government, non-religious, and non-profit organizational philosophy. The chief purpose of its activities is to open up frank dialogue between Japanese and Korean students. This year, 19 Japanese students and 17 Korean students participated in the 22nd Forum held in Korea. The Japanese side consisted of students from three different regions -Kanto, Kansai and Kyushu- with five of the Kyushu members being from APU. Under the theme of "The Bridge for a Brand-New Tomorrow" and the aim of examining issues in terms of the past, present and future, APU participants lunged into preparations for the forum.

After eight months of preparations including regular study meetings, symposiums and field works, the forum began in August 2006. Conducted as a two week study camp in Seoul, the forum included in its program a focus on not only Japan-Korean relations, but on relations with the Korean Peninsula and North-East Asia.

In order to comprehend the history between the two countries, the members of the forum visited "Nanumu" (The House of Sharing) where ex-comfort women used to reside together. They also observed a Wednesday Assembly, which was held in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. In "The House of Sharing," the participants had the opportunity to listen to first hand accounts from ex-comfort woman. They were able to see for themselves that they not only seek a simple apology from Japan but also deeply hope for peace with respect to human rights and security. In addition, the members visited Seodaemoon Prison, which still contains remnants from the colonial period, and came to understand the horrific nature of the torture imposed on the prisoners at the time. They also shared discussions on history education and their countries' different perceptions of history.

In thinking about Japan's relationship with North Korea, which was originally unified with the South, the members of the forum visited the demilitarized zone. Afterwards they organized a symposium and were able to exchange opinions about the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and about images and news reports about North Korea. A symposium about nuclear issues from the perspective of Northeast Asia was also held with students from China. The participants had the opportunity to discuss the responses and policies of different countries and the relations with the United States of America.

In addition to group fieldwork, various workshops were also organized so members could explore areas of interest. The topics for this year included: International Politics, International Economy, History, and Society and Culture. One member led each workshop and during the discussion time gave a presentation and initiated discussions on the various themes. Members of the forum commented that they were able to get to know the participants more deeply through this exercise.

The forum also featured a cultural exchange program. Participants gained a familiarity with each others cultures through a variety of performances such as traditional dancing, martial arts, and comedy, all staged by the participants themselves.

On top of this were sports meetings, a home stay program (3 nights at the home of a Korean participant) and sightseeing of Seoul city, ensuring that strong bonds were formed between participants. APU participants returned from the forum convinced that grass-roots activity will truly become the peaceful bridge between Japan and Korea.

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