Japan from the inside out

More on the Busan – Takeshima paradigm

Posted by ampontan on Monday, July 28, 2008

HERE ARE THE Joongang Daily’s headlines for today’s lead story on its Internet edition:

U.S. agency joins fray over Dokdo
Changing its designation of islets indicates sovereignty is in dispute

The first paragraph:

An official United States agency has crashed into the middle of the feud between Seoul and Tokyo over the Dokdo Islets by appearing to lean towards Japan.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what really happened:

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names recently revised its description of the islets from a South Korean territory to a territory with “undesignated sovereignty.”

Here’s the response of the South Korean government:

The Korean Foreign Ministry held an emergency meeting yesterday and decided to form a task force under a vice minister to deal with the change, said a senior ministry official.

An order had already been sent to the South Korean Embassy in Washington on Saturday night to express Seoul’s concerns and investigate the change.

Rufus T. Firefly: Of course you realize this means war!

The South Korean League for Maintaining Supremacy in English Alphabetical Order must have found this an ominous step:

The Web site of the U.S. board used to show other names with which Liancourt Rocks are called, listing “Tok-to” first and then Takeshima; but the order was changed so that the Japanese name appeared first and then the Korean name.

By coincidence, the lead story in the print edition of this morning’s Nishinippon Shimbun also had to do with Takeshima (Dokto). Here are the headline and subheads translated into English:

Takeshima Mention (in teacher instruction manuals) Casts Shadow on Japanese-Korean Exchange Programs
104 Events in 33 Prefectures Affected
20 Events in Kyushu – Yamaguchi Canceled

The body of the article focuses on the statistics, and there is an accompanying chart. A total of 63 events have been canceled outright, 20 of which were in Kyushu and nearby Yamaguchi Prefecture. Those are the areas in Japan closest to South Korea. One of the most recent cancellations was a trip by South Korean sixth-graders to Karatsu, Saga, for a homestay.

Kyodo’s English version has finally been released, and you can read it here. Notice the evenhanded tone.

As last week’s post on this issue emphasizes, there are two aspects to the Japanese-Korean relationship. One I described as the Takeshima paradigm. That is typified by the preceding articles, particularly the one from the Joongang.

The other I described as the Busan paradigm, named after South Korea’s second-largest city. People in business, financial, and political circles there are working to create a supra-national economic zone with their counterparts in Kyushu, Japan, just across the Korean Strait. It is the modern manifestation of an interaction between those two regions that has been ongoing since ancient times.

Astonishingly enough, it is still ongoing despite the Korean hysteria and efforts to create a battlefield out of bureaucratic institutions in other countries.

For proof, one only has to look at two other articles on page four of the same edition of today’s Nishinippon Shimbun.

The first, which occupies more than a third of the non-advertising space on the page, is about the women divers of Jeju, a Korean island in the strait. Known as haenyeo in Korean, the women have worked for centuries diving for abalone, other shellfish, and seaweed (first photo). These free divers have developed remarkable physical strength, including the ability to stay underwater for as long as two minutes. They were often the primary income earners for their families.

Japanese will find this story familiar because they have an identical tradition. Here the women are called ama (second photo). (The Chinese characters are the same in both languages and mean women of the sea.) In fact, Japan and Korea are the only countries with women making a livelihood from diving for shellfish and seaweed. Some of the Japanese women, however, are now pearl divers.

The women from both countries have traveled to each other’s country as migrant maritime workers. There are records of ama from Yamaguchi going diving in Ulleong in 1879, and women from Nagasaki and Fukuoka traveled to work in the seas near the Korean mainland until 1929.

Meanwhile, the haenyeo from Jeju went to the island of Miyake in the Pacific, south of Tokyo, to work in 1903. They later worked throughout the country using Osaka as a base.

The article focuses on an academic symposium held in Jeju last month whose theme was the women divers of both countries. Fewer women are willing to do this sort of work, and the Koreans want to preserve the culture. They are enlisting Japanese assistance to have the divers named a world intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Professor Ko Jan-hun of Cheju National University says, “If we apply together with Japan, with whom we have a history of exchanging techniques, then winning recognition from UNESCO will be easy.” The Koreans are cooperating most closely with Japan in Mie, where most of the ama work today. Several people involved in the effort in Mie traveled to Jeju.

The second article describes the seventh meeting of an association formed to commemorate the overseas exchange activities of Amenomori Hoshu, a Confucian scholar who lived from 1668 to 1755. Amenomori served the Tsushima domain as an emissary to the Korean Peninsula for nearly a quarter of a century. He lived in Busan for two years, and while there helped compile a Japanese language dictionary. On his return, he wrote a Korean language textbook for beginners. (He also learned Chinese.)

The scholar is known as an advocate of close, friendly relations between the two countries, which he expressed in the phrase seishin korin (sincere relations between neighbors). The association rotates the site of its meetings among Tsushima, Fukuoka City, and Seoul, and this year it was Seoul’s turn to play host. The meeting was held as scheduled with a delegation of 60 from Japan, even though it was just a few days after the latest controversy erupted.

Said the association chairman, “At times such as these, I think (the key is) seishin korin.”

For some Koreans, this choice of paradigms seems to be an easy one to make. It’s too bad that too few find it too easy to make the wrong choice.


Some links of interest:

1. The Jeju Haenyeo Museum in Jeju devoted to the women divers. There’s no English or Japanese, but you won’t need them to see the more than 100 photos.

2. Here’s a previous post on a Mie ama festival. It’s festival number three.

3. This YouTube video of the Jeju women unloading their catch is worth watching. It’s a shame that people filming YouTube videos insist on talking at the same time, despite having nothing to contribute. At one point, the woman here says, “They’re looking for octopus. Maybe.” She would have done us a favor by letting the Korean woman accompanying her do all the talking.

5 Responses to “More on the Busan – Takeshima paradigm”

  1. Ken said

    It is mostly Korean side that suspended the 104 culture interchange events projected between Japan and Korea.
    Most of them are for pupils or students and they would be just told the event was canceled by Korean side from some political reason without the judgment in Japan unlike in Korea.
    Just the impression that Korea is a strange country that takes the pleasure of summer vacation from kids would be carved deep in innocent youngsters’ heart.

    50 Korean Congressmen from both of ruling and opposition parties is proposing the resolution, “Tsushima also belongs to Korea.”

  2. Mooty said

    I hope we all go to War over this, using the most technologically advanced available to blow each other to smithereens.

    The Koreans are sick. They know that Japan has a pacifist constitution under the puppet-dom of the U.S., and are riled up in this frenzy over who will take what, seeing also that there is nowhere else for the Korean Christians to expand other than East to Japan, since North to their brothers and West to China are out of the questions and would be futile.

    Japan is in a bind since they are under the auspices of the agreement they have made with the West after WW2.

    War is the only solution. Korea should be blown to bits, and Japan will only lose its bottom half.

  3. Mooty said

    Excuse me I meant to say “technologically advanced weapons”

  4. […] Rocks», the standard name. The ROK Foreign Ministry is crying betrayal (via Ampontan’s «More on the Busan – Takeshima paradigm». Until last week, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names stated on its Internet site that the […]

  5. Ken said

    Korea-haters in Japanese netizens have jumped to 78% according to up-to-date questionnaire from 19th to 26th of Jul.

    Japanese security researcher warned about Korean military drill for Takeshima, “Korea had better recognize the reparation shall be huge.”

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