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Four Female Japanese Diplomats Talk about Korea-Japan Relations

Four Female Japanese Diplomats Talk about Korea-Japan Relations

Posted July. 09, 2005 03:06,   


Whenever an event for the “Korea and Japan Friendship Year 2005” is held, a officer, Nobuko Kaneda (34), who is in charge of the Japanese emperor and empress’ ceremonies in the protocol office at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, often quietly smiles. It’s because in 2002 when she was working in the Northeast Asia Division, the idea suggested by her team promoted interchanges between the two countries.

Kaneda has worked in the politics department in the Embassy of Japan in Korea until 2000, and said, “I feel rewarded in that taking advantage of a relationship with Korea, I proposed a plan that narrows the distance between the two countries down.”

Officer Kaneda speaks very fluent Korean and she attended the “Model United Nations General Assembly” as a Korean representative, while she was studying in Korea. Kaneda, who was an interpreter for Japan during the 2002 Korea-Japan summit, added that she felt that President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi were similar in character.

There are 60 to 70 people in the “Korean School” run by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that specialize in Korea and, who are fluent Korean speakers. Compared to the “American School” or “China School,” the Korean School is still small, but with the increasing importance of the Korean peninsula, an increasing number of “smart freshmen” are coming to Korean School, said Natsuko Enomoto (29. Intelligence and Analysis Bureau).

Natsuko said that only until the 1990s, some people were pushed to enter the Korean School against his or her will, but that the competitive rate currently hovers at a ratio of three to one. An officer, Kaori Tokumoto (32. North American Affairs Bureau), noted that having a good knowledge of Japan’s neighboring country, Korea, as a career diplomat, also gives one an edge in one’s career management.

These women have regular meetings, share information on Korea, and talk about one another’s working experiences in Korea.

Kaoru Tsubota (32. Press Division), who worked in the Japan Cultural Center in Korea until the fall of 2002, is a veteran interpreter, serving as an interpreter in various kinds of talks on many occasions, but still receives tutoring for simultaneous interpretation of Korean once or twice every week.

Kaoru said, “after all, Korean is a foreign language so when I neglect learning Korean, my pronunciation starts to get twisted. I can’t treat studying Korean lightly because I could be assigned to work in Seoul at any time, and have to meet Korean friends as well.”

The four female diplomats agreed that from a long-term prospect, Korea and Japan have a bright future ahead despite a mounting amount of uneasy issues between the two countries. Officer Kaneda said, “In the short-term, the relationship between the two countries seems to be in a difficult situation, but taking it in terms of 10 years, or 20 years, many people from the two countries feel familiar with each other, which was unimaginable before. Taken as a stock price, it’s like a general rising trend.”

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com