Yu-Ai May issue 2019 — Korean PAX report by Matsue Matsumoto

Yu-ai Friendship
Newsletter of the World Friendship Center, NPO

Participating in the Korean PAX
Matsue Matsumoto

I participated in the Korean PAX from April 30 to May 5. During this trip, I visited places where we usually could not go, and had very valuable experiences.

I participated in a protest meeting which was held in front of the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday May 1. The protest meeting is held on every Wednesday. In the afternoon, we went to Seodaemun Prison History Hall. On May 2, we visited the Comfort Women Historical Museum and met a Korean woman at House of Sharing. They both depicted negative legacies of the Imperial Japanese Army.

At the anti-Japan demonstration on Wednesday, a priest of the Methodist church offered his message and prayer. I couldn’t understand Korean, so I had no idea what he was saying. In the bible, Matthew 5:44 says “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” I couldn’t understand what kind of message he offered and how he prayed for people in the demonstrations.

At the site of Seodaemun Prison History Hall, prison houses are preserved and open to the public. Activists in the independence movement were imprisoned here during the Japanese colonial period. The prison houses were also used by the Korean government after World War II. They were the buildings where tortures and death penalties were performed.

At House of Sharing, Tsukasa Yajima, a Japanese, showed us a video of the activities and protest of Ms. Kang Duk-kyung who was the first to proclaim the comfort women issue. We saw her pictures that she drew for her mental health. Each picture depicted her crying heart – a feeling I could share. After that, I met two Korean women. Their names and ages were the same. One of them looked calm as she told her story. I thought she had a strong will which would not be daunted and would persevere through anything. When I asked her “What do you want us to do? What do you want?” She answered, “Apology and compensation.” The other was a woman free from care.

On the night of the second day, I made an apology and told the A-bomb experience. During questions and answers session after my presentation, someone asked “Why don’t you ask America for an apology? You had terrible experiences due to the A-bomb.” I answered, saying “Many American people agree that the A-bomb ended the war sooner. The Japanese proverb says, ‘Leave the past in the past. Cover up what smells bad.’ Many Japanese don’t ask for apology. Some young Japanese don’t know that once Japan fought against America. Today, the power of nuclear weapons is about 4000 times as strong as that of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. One bomb would contaminate half of the earth with radiation. From a humanitarian standpoint, such a powerful weapon must not be used. However, some countries possess them. I am making efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.” I don’t know whether they understood what I meant.

There is a culture of “hatred” in Korea we Japanese can’t understand. They harbor this feeling for a long period of time in their minds. However, Kim Yog-Won an author of Social Psychology (1989), points out that the Korean are very generous people and forgive others, and can accept their fate due to “hatred”. I think that both aspects are true. I can understand the Korean people seek for an apology from the top person for war responsibility. If the number of people who support the latter aspect is larger than that of the former, I think we can find a clue to reconciliation. Today, the relations between Japan and Korea are strained. I hope from now on, that young people try to solve the Japan-Korea issue.

Translated by Sachiko Hiraoka

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