JFIR Commentary

January 21, 2020




Thoughts at Guryongpo Sunset

By ARAKI Kazuhiro

I visited Korea in late November. As myself being an expert in Korean Peninsula affairs, it is a necessity to “breathe the local air” from time to time, to grasp the reality there. It is not possible to do so in North Korea, but South is closer than Okinawa. Honestly, there is definitely a gap between what is actually going on in Korea and what are reported in Japanese (or even Korean) media.

After my appointment in a city on the side of Sea of Japan, called Pohang-si, I decided to visit Guryongpo, an hour bus ride from there. Guryongpo industrially prospered with fishery under Japanese rule. Some streets were restored as they were in old times, and restaurants like “Hinode” (‘sunrise’ in Japanese) are still in business. Many tourists were there, possibly because the town is known to have been a drama location. A two-stories high Japanese style residence is now publicly open as Modern History Museum, displaying then- “inlanders’” stuffs (like charming black dial phones), and city maps, etc. A video of “Guryongpo group” members, 'Japanese returnees' who were born or lived in Guryongpo, chatting by remembering the old times were being played. There are many towns in Korea where restoring the scenery during Japanese rule to attract tourism, many of which usually state “Imperial Japan exploited …” to prevent the claims just in case (although, usually at the end of sign), but such kind of thing was not found there. It was not seen possibly due to my short stay, yet there was a scene in the video being played that a Korean senior talking about the old time with much nostalgia.

What I have realized this time by visiting Korea was that Japan is accepted wider than before. It seemed difficult for them to publicly say good thing about Japan before, but now they can. The book “Anti-Japan Tribalism” by Lee Young-hoon, et al., translated and also published in Japan, is still in the best-seller section of the bookstores in Korea. Meanwhile, anime products like “Weathering with You” and “Your Name” by Japanese director Shinkai Makoto are also widely sold.

In any case, there will be no end to the anti-Japanese campaign in Korea, and Korean Peninsula will always be there that, despite the difficulties in the region, Japan has no option but to deal with Korea for long. Just to expect they change their attitude will not solve anything, so what is important for us is that we stand ready. I believe if Japan stand strong and still, be patient during the difficult times, not only Korea but any countries will no longer look down on Japan. The abduction issue would be the most obvious case. Such thoughts tided in my mind while looking at the Guryongpo port sunset.

(This is the English translation of an article written by ARAKI Kazuhiro, Professor, Takushoku University, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Seiho (Hundred Flowers in Full Bloom)” of JFIR on December 12, 2019.)