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Ha Eun-joo Looks Forward to Visiting Her Homeland But Is Burdened by Dokdo Issue

Ha Eun-joo Looks Forward to Visiting Her Homeland But Is Burdened by Dokdo Issue

Posted March. 16, 2005 22:20,   


This is the first time Ha Eun-joo has played in an official game in Korea since her days at Sunil Girl’s Middle School in the late 1990s. She is as excited as she was back then.

The recent conflict between Korea and Japan arising from the controversy over a new Japanese history textbook and Dokdo, however, makes Ha a bit nervous. In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Ha said, “I know about the conflict between Korea and Japan from news reports, and that makes me a bit worried about visiting Korea.”

When Ha applied to become a naturalized citizen of Japan, many in Korea were opposed to the idea, and some officials of Korean basketball organizations even asked the Japan Basketball Association to reconsider Ha’s application. Last year, when Ha’s Chanson Cosmetics team visited Korea for training, Korean women’s basketball teams refused to play practice matches with Ha’s team.

Ha says, “Korea and Japan have different points of view.” She says that Japan these days is swept with Hallyu, a boom in Korean pop culture, rather than anti-Koreanism. She points out that while Japanese youths love Korean pop singers and soap operas, few know of Takeshima, the Japanese name for Dokdo.

Ha said, “My knee injury could keep me from playing in Korea, but I still have a week, and I’ll try to get well.” She is looking forward to visiting Korea and said, “Wherever you play, if you stick by the rules and satisfy your fans, then that’s enough.”

During her days at Sunil Girl’s Middle School, Ha suffered a serious injury, which nearly put her career to an end. She then left for Japan and earned Japanese citizenship in 2003 and joined the Chanson Cosmetics team. Ha was recently named as one of the 35 candidates for Japan’s national team. Ha has become a hope for Japan’s basketball team as Asahi Shimbun reported on March 15 that “Ha is becoming the central pillar of Japan’s national substitute players.”

Ha, however, insisted that, “I haven’t heard anything from anyone, so I really can’t say. As of now, I don’t think about joining the Japanese national team at all. I did not become a Japanese citizen to play for Japan’s national team.”

Winning the Rookie of the Year award in Japan, Ha has shown great potential. Her brother is Ha Seung-jin (223cm tall, Portland Trailblazers), the first Korean to join the NBA in the U.S. Ha said her brother called to say congratulations right after her team won the Women’s Japan Basketball League title Tuesday, and said proudly of her brother, “I’m happy to have a brother like Seung-jin. I think I gain more fame because he’s my brother. The Japanese media is very interested in him as well.”

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com