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[Opinion] Principal Hosoda Sanae

Posted March. 31, 2005 23:39,   


One September day in 1999, under a warm early autumn sun, I visited Hosoda High School in Shiki, a city in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture. Stepping into the school building, I was immediately struck by a frame containing the school motto. It said, “Love and Service.” Shown into the principal’s office, I saw that the room had “Korea” stamped in every corner, from the “janggu,” a Korean traditional instrument, to a mask used in Korean drama, Korean porcelain, and a Korean folding screen. The principal pointed to the janggu and explained that it was “a gift bestowed by a Korean travel agency on his 100th visit to Korea.”

Principal Hosoda Sanae (83). He is also the owner of the private high school over which he administers. Although he is reputed for his kindliness, he is obstinate about one thing: the destination for his students’ yearly excursion is always Korea. Back in the early 1970s, when Korean antagonism toward the Japanese was still strong, Hosoda came to a decision after traveling in Korea amid generally unfriendly attention. “We can’t talk about the world without knowing our own neighbor.” He began sending his students to Korea in 1978. He paid no heed to objecting parents.

Since 1998, Jeongseon-gun in Gangwon-do has been included in the itinerary. The purpose is to teach his students the “Jeongseon Arirang.” Principal Hosoda remarked, “Arirang is Korea’s most representative folk song, and the Jeongseon Arirang has the longest history of them all.” In 1999, he became an honorary resident of Jeongseon-gun. And in 2002, the official “Visit Korea Year,” he was appointed as an honorary ambassador.

Korea-Japan exchange events are being cancelled en masse due to the hostility surrounding Dokdo and Japan’s history textbooks. How did Hosoda High School students react? They came to Jeongseon, as usual. Among the 267 students composing the excursion party, the 62 in the first group watched a performance of Arirang at the Jeongseon Cultural Center on March 28, and sang the song with Jeongseon High School students. The second group will arrive in Korea on April 18, followed by the third group on April 25. Before the excursions began, Principal Hosoda sent a letter to the Jeongseon Arirang Research Institute. Concerned about the recent developments between Korea and Japan, he asked, “I want to send my students to Jeongseon this year as well. Would it be okay?” Next year, the number of Hosoda High students who have visited Korea will exceed 10,000. How many people like Principal Hosoda will it take to thaw the cold war between Korea and Japan?

Shim Gyu-seon, Editorial Writer, ksshim@donga.com