Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)
The ethnic cultural festival of Ikuno (Osaka), the region home to the largest Korean population in Japan, started in 1983 and will celebrate its 20th anniversary this month. Different from other festivals raising funds from sponsors and organizing big events, like the "One Korea Festival," this ethnic cultural festival has always been from the beginning self managed. The Korean residents organize the festival giving it a strong local touch and powerful ethnic message. They meet every year financial difficulties and try to sell "T shirts" and collect donations in order to be able to finance the holding of the festival. The efforts are rewarding and they can fully express their ethnical culture and traditional art. On top of that, they are able to complete high quality satirical plays, like the "Madang," in which they can include their own thinking.
It is also a difficult task to ensure places to practice their traditional arts. For instance, the dance called "Chum" and the traditional "Pungmul" musical parade, using four different musical instruments, require a large stage because of the numerous actors. It is quite difficult to ensure a public hall to practice regularly during several months.
About 100 members, divided in sections, gather to practice after finishing work or the school. The rehearsal takes place in such a way that people are able to share their feelings and thinking. "Passion" would be the most fitted expression to explain the whole atmosphere. The practice, that is extremely strict, takes regularly place three months after summer. Each one breathes simultaneously and the moment the happiness of the people performing together interacts, whenever a good musical performance occurs, the whole atmosphere of the place becomes very impressive.
At present this ethnic cultural festival gives a poetical atmosphere in Ikuno during the autumn, but during the first years people had to go through unthinkable suffering. Ms. Kuwamoto Fumiko who has cooperated in this event from the first festival offers her reflections on the matter: "At the beginning, the schedule of the festival fell on the same dates of Ikuno ward's festival parade that proceeded during the night. They said that the reason was because the roads were left dirty after the "peasants' parade." The police was afraid of a clash with the Koreans and drew out armored cars and about 100 riot police to the site of the festival. Local residents showed strong anti-Korean feelings and were very suspicious of letting the public facilities of schools been used by Koreans, on the ground that they will become dirty with leftover garbage and bicycles. But, in reality, they were concerned about Koreans taking over the schools. On the other hand, posters were painted with black ink or tear off. Those times were times of strong division among Koreans themselves and there were reactions like, how can it be that the festival is neither South nor North?"
Ms. Lee Youngnyo who had been a member of the executive committee for the first 10 years and got again involved in the preparations of the festival last year explains: " The Japanese felt certainly uneasy fearing that their vested interests were in danger. At the same time, they were not pleased with Koreans using Japanese schools, but we Koreans had been hoping with enthusiasm to hold such events, and to change things not only in Ikuno, but also in Japan. Yes, we burst open with courage." Ms. Lee cried when she saw first-generation Koreans run out from their homes to view the parade. She remembers the episode when those Korean persons thanked her: " during our first years of stay in Japan we were missing such festivals that revived in us our ethnic pride. Thank you for making them a reality."
Kim Hwaseong who has been involved with the organization of the festivals for the last three years explains his personal change, as a result of the cultural festivals. " When I started to participate I was made realize my Korean identity. The more festivals continue to be held, the more I feel a thrust to look actively for my cultural roots." Ms. Koh Chungmi says: " I think that, those who always participate as well as those who do it for the first time, both get naturally an awareness of their ethnic identity that becomes deeper by attending such cultural events. The greetings in the Hankul language, the shouts of encouragement during the practice, the dance with the Korean fans are all our culture and little by little they become part of ourselves."
Again, Mr. Ham Choongnam, the chairman of this year's executive committee, makes the following comment looking forward to the future: " Although it is true that, compared to 20 years ago, the relations between Japan and South Korea have become friendly, the situation of Koreans in Japan has improved little. This is why I feel the need for this kind of events. I think that based on this we must build a fit environment for the Koreans to continue living in Japan and provide them hope for the future."

* The cultural festival that exhibits the passionate enthusiasm of these people will be held from the eve of 26 October, starting with the local "peasants' parade" at 3:00 PM.

* The ethnic cultural festival will take place at Katsuyama middle school (Osaka) on 27 October, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

* For those who would like to collaborate with donations or want to attend the bazaar please, contact the festival's executive committee office. Tel. 06-6741-0650
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