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365. Would You Like a Hug?

Park, Su-yeon 기자2017.03.03 10:07:53

     Korea and Japan are geographically close, but still they are far away each other from a psychological point of view. Even now, the Korean-Japanese relationship is worsening due to various problems such as the issue of Korean "comfort women", Shinto worship, historical awareness, and Dokdo. Being influenced by the worsening Korea-Japan relationship, a Japanese publisher issuing Korean wave magazines actually went bankrupt. Hoping to improve this situation, Yoon, Su-yeon, a college senior who major in Japanese Language and Literature, represents herself as a Free-Hugger who gives people free hugs wearing both Korean hanbok and Japanese kimono in Korea and Japan. The KNU Times asked her some questions about her campaign.

 

Q1) What inspired you to start the campaign to recover relations between Korea and Japan? Why did you decide to offer free hugs despite the various campaigns?

A1) While studying in Japan as an exchange student in 2015, I realized that there is a huge gap between the perception Korean mass media gives of Japan and the Japan I experienced. For example, I learned that Japanese people hide their true emotions behind formalities. However, the truth is that they consider others too much, which is mistaken by Koreans for being two-faced. Likewise, Koreans have prejudice against Japanese and I think that Japanese have prejudice against Koreans as well. I started the free hugs campaign to eliminate these prejudices and encourage others to think about relations between Korea and Japan. Another reason why I chose to offer free hugs is that I can communicate directly with Japanese people who express a variety of ideas. I cannot predict what kind of people I will meet on the street, which is one of the greatest advantages in giving free hugs.

 

Q2) In 2016 February, you gave free hugs next to anti-Korean demonstrators. How did you feel about that?

A2) At that time, I did not know that there was demonstration against Korea. I encountered those demonstrations by chance. I felt nervous, because it was my first time to give free hugs blindfolded while anti-Korean demonstrations were nearby. Even so, I could successfully give free hugs, thanks to people who supported me.


Q3) It costs a lot of money to visit Japan frequently. How do you earn the money for your free hug campaign in Japan?

A3) I raised money through crowdfunding in Japan. Crowdfunding is a way of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. Many people including activists and artists can be supported by a lot of sponsors. When I started the crowdfunding, I aimed to reach 60 million yen, but I received over 70 million yen. The crowdfunding is a significant movement because Japanese including right-wing Japanese groups, gave me a lot of money.

 

Q4) I heard that you are planning to study Symbiosis at a graduate school in Japan, after graduating from Yeungnam university. What is the reason for this and is there any connection between Symbiosis studies and the campaign you are doing now?

A4) Symbiosis is the study of finding ways to live in harmony. A lot of subjects such as nature, robots, and human beings are dealt with in the study of Symbiosis. Research on KoreaJapan relations is going on actively nationally, whereas there is a lack of research by citizens. I believe, in order to recover relations between the two countries, it is important to change peoples perceptions. However, the government is trying to solve this only at the national level rather than reflecting their citizens opinions on policies. Therefore, I decided to study Symbiosis from citizen's point of view so that I can contribute to improving relations between Korea and Japan at that level.

 

Q5) Have you thought about the relationship between Korea and other countries?

A5) Recently, I have become interested in Vietnam. Korea has shared a lot of things with Vietnam including economic trade, agreements, and history. Among these things, I am interested in historical issues rather than economic exchanges, as both Korea and Vietnam went through a colonial period. One thing I know is that there are a lot of women who were forced to serve as comfort women both in Vietnam and Korea. However, the ways they coped with this problem were different. Koreans have demanded a formal apology from Japan, while Vietnamese acquiesced to Korean soldiers who committed atrocious acts in the Vietnam War. Even though there are a lot of people who sustained damage at the hands of Koreans, their story has hardly been featured by the press. In order for Korea to address the problem of Korean comfort women, I think the Vietnamese comfort women issue should be addressed as well. Korea is asking for an apology from Japan, but, at the same time, we must apologize to the Vietnamese who were victims of the Korean army.

 

Q6) Will you continue your campaign in the future, and are there any other activities planned by you to improve relations between the two countries except for free hugs?

A6) Of course, I will continue to give people free hugs in the future. In addition to the free hugs, I am planning to hold talk shows so that I can communicate with citizens and travel to all parts of Japan wearing hanbok. Most activities are planned to be held in Japan, not in Korea, because I think that conducting a campaign in Japan as a Korean would have a greater effect than Japanese people doing the same in their own country.

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