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Japan: Imagining Future Japanese-Korean Relations with ‘Free Hugs’

Below is a video showing a performance by a young Japanese man in Seoul, Korea; he is holding a sign reading “Free Hugs for Peace”. The video was made about one year ago, in the summer of 2011. The creator, Koichi Kuwabara, began to attract the attention of Twitter users anxious about Japan-Korea relations, soon after the video was introduced [ja].

In fact, in August 2012, tensions in the relations between the two nations were exacerbated. On August 10, South Korean President Lee became the first incumbent president to set foot [ja] on the islands of Takeshima, which ignited a sovereignty dispute between both nations.

Japanese Prime Minster Noda held a special press conference [ja] on August 24, in which he emphasized that “Takeshima is a territory belonging to Japan”, and suggested that a reduction in the Japan-Korea currency swap agreement should be considered.

Rumors of increasing tensions between the two nations have been talked about on a daily basis, in the media and on the Internet since the events of August. Amidst this uproar, Koichi Kuwabara's video spread via Twitter, and has touched the hearts of many viewers [ja]:

@megumoyamamoto: もう連日の報道にうんざりなので、心にしみた。

@megumoyamamoto: Since I'm so sick of the daily news, I found this touching.

@NADA_DANCHI: どこの国でもいい人わるい人、両方いるんだよね。新しい世代で過去を反省共有しながら更に前進したいものだ。フリーハグ…マイケルの曲抜いても涙でそうだ。新しい世代!

@NADA_DANCHI: There are both good people and bad people in every country. I would like for the younger generation to reflect upon the past, while sharing further advances. Free hugs – I probably would have cried even without Michael's song. A new generation!


@aytkk: Spreading hope – I feel that something will change just by watching this video.

Considering these positive reviews, user @hyonggi [ja] analyzed the hostility towards South Korea of some “netizens” who exercise influence on the internet:


Only the “Let's interfere with transcendent gestures of conciliation” type of old dudes are commenting on this video. They must be some kind of “netizens” or “Nettouyo” [slang for right-wing Japanese nationalist internet groups]

Also, in comments on the portal website Hatena, y043 [ja] noted the date on which the video was posted, and wrote:


Since it was uploaded on August 27, 2011, did this happen one year ago? Although I hope that there will be the same reaction even now.

While increasing numbers voiced their approval, @617utogs [ja] had some candid advice for Twitter users who admired the video:


What the people in question did is certainly nice, but I have the feeling that they are not especially the ones who are tweeting now. It's unpleasant that people seeing these tweets will be confused about the problem between the two nations.

Furthermore, many negative comments were posted on YouTube, including those by user tenmer100323 [ja]:


These weak, sissy, and self-satisified peace activists are not looking at the reality. I sincerely hope that diplomatic ties with Korea will be broken.

The creator of the video, Koichi Kuwabara, describes why it was made, in comments [ja] on his blog:


I wanted to show the whole truth about Korea, which is not being reported by the mass media. Japan and Korea can get along with each other. I have hope in the future of both nations. I wanted to prove that.

He also made an appeal [ja] for cooperation:


So many opinions are flying around on the internet. But looking at this video, one's honest reaction is that it is right.


What I felt myself is the right direction to take, how can we best do that? Shouldn't we look for a solution together?
Contributing author : Izumi Mihashi

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