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Building Peace and Reconciliation through a Japanese-Korean Exchange Program

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Japanese and Korean university students volunteer side by side on farms in rural Korean villages near the DMZ (demilitarized zone) every year as part of an exchange program organized by Dr. Shigetsugu Komine, Assistant Professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. The cultural immersion is an enlightening experience, providing the opportunity for students to build friendships and challenge their own biases, prejudices, and even worldviews. Dr. Komine believes that building these cross-cultural friendships is an important step to healing the emotional wounds left behind from the decades-long history of enmity between Korea and Japan. Through building bonds of mutual trust, affection, and support, these students break down cultural barriers and become seeds of peace for future generations.  

Dr. Shigetsugu Komine, Assistant Professor at Rikkyo
University in Tokyo, Japan, speaks on exchange program
in rural Korean villages near the DMZ

Reconciliation between Japanese and Koreans is a delicate task requiring humility, compassion, and service. Dr. Komine has dedicated himself to this endeavor for many years and has seen more than 150 students participate in the program over the course of ten years. He believes that volunteerism leaves a lasting impression on the students; they learn to think critically about social issues and plan and manage projects together. They become aware of the tragic division of the peninsula by visiting the DMZ and begin to think about ways to build peace. Also sharing close living spaces and finding common activities in their free time such as singing and performing dance routines allow the students to form close friendships.

Many types of exchange programs exist, but Dr. Komine believes this program is more than about having a unique cultural experience. It’s about building peace. 

Dr. Komine was a participant at the 2019 Global Peace Convention in Seoul, Korea and was a guest speaker at the youth forum. Despite historical grievances, he believes that a path toward reconciliation and friendship is possible between Japanese and Koreans and that Japan has a role to play toward the peaceful, reunification of the Korean peninsula. Japan would also benefit from reunification as peace and stability on the peninsula would spread to neighboring countries such as Japan and all throughout Northeast Asia. More importantly, the Japanese and Korean people are part of the same human family; the Japanese people would help alleviate the pain and suffering of their Korean brothers and sisters by supporting the reunification of their homeland.

Visit www.1dream1korea.com for more on the One Korea Global Campaign.