Japanese novelist Keiichiro Hirano told the Asahi Shimbun on Friday that Japanese citizens should first skim through a ruling issued by the Korean Supreme Court regarding a forced-labor lawsuit. He asked Japanese people to shift their focus to the human misery that victim workers sustained regardless of their nationality. In recognition of his first novel “Nisshoku (The Eclipse),” Hirano was presented the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s most renowned literature award, in 1999.
The Asahi Shimbun has chosen Hirano as the first interviewee for an interview series titled “Neighbors” that aims at solidifying cooperation and friendship despite the worsening relationship between South Korea and Japan. He criticized some Japanese media outlets for irresponsibly fueling anti-Korean sentiment, which has left him upset and emotionally scarred. “We should read the South Korean court’s ruling text on forced labor issues, which you will surely find shocking,” the novelist said. “Broadcasting show guests should not be allowed to talk about the relationship between two nations if they do not study the ruling text beforehand.”
Hirano said that he has many friends and readers in Korea. Japanese readers can relate to novels of Korean authors such as Kim Yeon-su and Eun Hee-kyung given the characters delicately described in their novels, he said. Asked about the solution to the two nations’ relationship, he answered, “Novels do not attach a stigma to any specific demographic group of nationality or gender. There will be better awareness of the forced labor issues (among Japanese citizens) if the focus is not on a particular group of victim workers but on each individual. It matters how we admit the complexities of the issue and find common ground to build up a new relationship between neighboring countries.”