Yonsei the Door to Better Understanding Korea-Japan Relations
Aiko Nakamoto, an exchange student from International Christian University in Japan, is no stranger to Korea, having visited the country a half-dozen times, including as part of an exchange program in high school.
Aiko was first exposed to Korean culture through the well-known drama Winter Sonata, which helped to ignite the Hallyu (Korean wave) in Japan. Her interest in Korean popular culture subsequently led to a desire to better understand the political relations between Korea and Japan. This resulted in her taking part in a ten-month exchange program in Daejeon during her second year of high school.
When asked why she chose to come to Korea again to study abroad in college, Aiko said: “I was aware of the bilateral territorial and historical dispute between Korea and Japan, and I was also aware that we in Japan do not get to learn the whole picture. I wanted to better understand the bilateral relations, as I do not like stereotyping.” Believing that it takes longer than a semester to
meaningfully understand another culture and society, Aiko chose to study in Seoul for a full year.
Yonsei was the natural choice for Aiko, due to its expertise in the history of and international relations between Korea and Japan. “I knew I would get a high-quality education at Yonsei,” she said, “and so far I am impressed by the quality of the faculty—most can speak and teach in English very well.”
Aiko’s favorite course at Yonsei has been “Korea Movie and Culture Study,” which focuses on Korean films of the past two decades. The movie that made the deepest impression on her—and which she presented on—is Spring of a Korean Peninsula; while it was made in 1941, it was only discovered in 2005, in China. This course and others have helped Aiko to learn more about the Japanese colonization of Korea.
Speaking of the frequently tense relations between Korea and Japan, Aiko mentioned that she “was surprised to see so many Japanese restaurants and food products in Korea. Since people in both countries are consuming each other’s culture so often, it is my hope that people will become better informed about the political and historical problems between them.” She added that it will be all for the best if people on both sides think carefully about these issues. “I also hope,” she said,” that mutual cultural consumption at the public level will help improve relations between the two countries.”
Aiko now plans to write her senior thesis on a topic related to Korean culture. In the future, she hopes to contribute to building bridges between Korea and Japan that promote greater mutual understanding.