Friday, March 9, 2012

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki June 13, 1996 "About the World Cup"

NOTE: First of all, I must apologize for not posting one of these columns since December 16. Really, I had every intention of posting! I brought the originals with me when I went back to Japan and translated three of them to post when I got back in January. However....somehow....I lost them! And then I couldn't find the originals to re-translate them! So...sorry, gomennasai! I'm back and will be here for the next three weeks at least! :-) 

About the World Cup
Last week, the International Soccer Asssociation  (FIFA) announced that the 2002 World Cup would be jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea. This is the first time it has ever had co-sponsors. Initially, the Association President said, "Like a soccer match, there are winners and losers," so everyone expected either Japan or South Korea to get the entire event. However, because the competion between the two countries was so intense, the decision was made to jointly host the event.

The competion between Japan and South Korea is not just about the World Cup. There are several historical issues between the two countries. South Korea last year (1995) celebrated the 50th anniversary of their freedom from Japanese colonial rule. They still consider the "comfort women" (forced prostitution of local Korean women for the Japanese Imperial Army) issue and the question of the jurisdiction over Tokushima (the island off the coast of Korea that Japanese call Takeshima) to be problems. There is not a lot of deep feelings of friendship towards Japan. Similarly, on Japan's side, there seems to be a long-standing attitude of superiority towards's Korea.

So this joint sponsorship of the 2002 World Cup could be a good impetus for the two countries to try to thaw out their relationship and become better friends. They must work together to plan the World Cup and make it a success, which I am sure they can do. There are many items in which they will have to compromise. For example, where will the Opening Ceremony be held? Will the Emperor visit Korea for the first time to attend any of the events? These and other difficult questions are not insurmountable. I am rooting for both countries.
Click to WORLD CUP-itize the Japanese :

This article was written in 1996, when I thought the lack of friendship between the two countries was bordering on actual animosity. The "comfort women" scandal was handled daily in Korea, with their press handling the issue in typical EXCITABLE and DRAMATIC manner. However, those Japanese government men who actually spoke out about it were elder gentlemen whose basic responses were, "During war bad things happened. Get over it." Basically, the absolute wrong responses to what constituted government sanctioned rape!

Now I'm happy to report that these types of issues seem to have disappeared. The World Cup was a huge success, for one thing. Read the Official FIFA article on the 2002 World Cup or an article by a BBC reporter about his experiences in Japan during the World Cup. Although I was not there (I came back to the US in 2001) it sounds like it was a resounding success. Now, "K-Pop" (Korean pop music super-stars) and "K-Dramas" (Korean dramas and movies) are all over the place in Japan. Korean pop stars come to Japan for sold-out concerts (Korean students study Japanese in school, but Japanese don't study Korean). I'm happy to say that the situation between the two countries is much, much better. 

How much of that is in response to joint anxiety about China, I can not say. :-)

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