Munsu Park SJ JAS Research Center
Korea and Japan Jesuit Provinces have increased mutual contacts in recent years, and have agreed to heighten the level of interprovince cooperation. As part of this trend, the Shimonseki Labor Education Center (LEC) in Japan and the Jesuit Research Center for Advocacy and Solidarity (JAS) in Seoul jointly sponsored a two-day conference of Jesuits and peace movement members from Japan and Korea. Shimonoseki LEC was the host, and most of the Korean participants took the overnight ferry boat from Busan to Shimonoseki. The conference began after breakfast on July 12, 2012.
Fr. Hayashi’s charisma for making people feel at ease sparked a lot of open and lively sharing. There were several participants fluent in both Japanese and Korean, and they took turns providing translations.
The movement opposing nuclear power is stronger in Japan than in Korea, especially since the Fukushima meltdown and irradiation. The Korean participants hope to gain momentum through coalition with that movement. On the other hand the Korean Catholic Church is able to exert more societal influence than Japan’s, due to its greater number of Catholics. There is much to be gained by coalition.
The participants shared information on nuclear power policy and also shared their experiences in the peace movement. One Japanese presenter was an anti-nuclear power activist who had to flee her home after the Fukushima accident.
She shared the anxiety and anger she suffered due to TEPCO and the Japanese authorities withholding information from the people. After all presentations and discussions the participants exchanged contact information and agreed that there should be follow-up programs, which should be promoted by JAS and Shimonoseki LEC.
The Korean participants were treated to a historical tour of Shimonoseki while sloshing through heavy rainfall. Shimonoseki was an important launching point for Japan’s invasions into Korea and China in the 20th Century. The Japanese guide at one site emphasized the illegality under international law of the Japanese colonial expansion into Korea.Conference participants, both Korean and Japanese, visited a Korean school in Shimonoseki, where they heard about the discrimination the school suffers because of Japan’s lack of recognition of minority schools. The school’s directors realize that their position is weakened by the lack of cooperation between South and North Korea. Thus this cooperation in the peace movement also has ramifications for minority rights in Japan and relations between the two Koreas, and at the same time can help the Japanese participants separate themselves from the past history of Japan’s colonization policies, and can help Korean participants feel more sympathy with the Japanese suffering from nuclear weapons and nuclear power accidents.