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Seven Elderly Japanese Traverse Korea by Foot

Posted June. 01, 2005 06:50,   


“Though we can’t communicate with each other, we learned that we can understand each other well with our hearts. I also think that the relationship between Korea and Japan will strengthen and deepen if the two countries open their minds to each other.”

Amidst uncomfortable relationship between Korea and Japan over the Dokdo dispute, seven elderly Japanese in their 60s and 70s are receiving much attention after traversing Korea on foot.

Those under the spotlight are all walking maniacs, including Nishikawa Arao (74), Masahito Kobayashi (70), Yasuo Endo (62), Mikio Kanai (61), Shigeru Kawata (60).

Departing from the Busan City Hall on April 1, they returned to a fountain square in front of Busan City Hall at 4:00 p.m. on May 31 via the Gyeongju – Donghae-Hongcheon – Seoul – Asan – Gongju – Gwangju – Jinju route.

In total, they walked a distance of 1,500 kilometers over the last 61 days. They carried out an arduous march by walking 24.6 kilometers a day on average, which is even difficult for a young man in his 20s to bear. During relatively longer distance walks, they covered 50 kilometers (Busan to Jang-an) in a day. When their targeted walking distance exceeded 35 kilometers, they started walking as early as 7:00 a.m., and when the distance was less than 35 kilometers, they walked starting from 8:00 a.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m., about eight or nine hours on average.

Nishikawa, the leader of the group, said that they were impressed by the warm hearts of the Korean people, who gave fruits and drinks to them, though the Korean knew they were Japanese, and that there is nothing to overcome when understanding is truly achieved.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com