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Film to build bridges between Korea, Japan

Korean and Japanese high school students are to bridge long-standing boundaries between their nations this summer by making a film.

The Processing Together charity-funded project is to bring eight Japanese students to meet eight of their Korean counterparts in Seoul.

The kids are to learn about the historical, cultural, and social crossing-points between their two countries by making a film, funded by the Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace foundation.

The one-week program, provisionally scheduled for Jul. 27 ― Aug. 2, is being organized by Japanese film graduate Chihiro Amemiya, who currently lives in New York.

“Until I came to the U.S. and made friends with people from South Korea, I was insensible to the fact that Japan, the country where I was born and raised, annexed Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Amemiya told The Korea Herald via email.

“Many Korean friends have told me that they would never forget what Japan had done to their country, whereas I barely remembered a paragraph describing it briefly in my high school history textbook. I often felt a huge gap between our societies in our knowledge and understanding of our common past.”

Initially planning to focus on the issues surrounding Japanese brutality to Korea during World War II, Amemiya decided to include exploration of the two cultures to find similarities, such as languages, city structures, lifestyles, and popular cultures, following Japan’s recent devastating earthquake and tsunami, to highlight more positive aspects of the two countries’ relationship.

Amemiya is seeking Korean-speakers based in or around Seoul to volunteer with the project.

The filmmaker who studied Media Arts Production at The City College of New York acknowledged that the Japanese government’s approval system for school history textbooks -― on topics such as Korean occupation, forced labor and comfort women ― had caused disputes for allegedly distorting and downplaying Japan’s imperialist history.

“Because Korean and Japanese students learn about the shared history of the two countries in contradicting ways, this obstructs efforts to bringing people together and to establish mutual understanding,” Amemiya said.

The students are to research the relationship between Korea and Japan by visiting museums, interviewing experts, and having group discussions. They will then make and edit the short film to express their own points of view on what they learn.

“The content of the film will be determined by the students through group discussions and editing sessions, so the video film will reflect their experience of learning together and how they come to the Korea-Japan relationship, rather than being molded by other people’s opinions about what is historically accurate and politically correct,” Amemiya said.

Hwang Su-kyoung, a Korean scholar who helped advise Amemiya on the historical context of the project said: “Chihiro’s project is special, because it encourages students to be creatively involved in the production of the film. In this setting, students are no longer passive audiences sitting in classrooms and being told about what the past was like.

“In Chihiro’s project, the students will learn that they are actually the agents of history and are directly involved in its narration.

“Through Processing Together, I hope to provide young students with an opportunity to build friendships that are unobstructed by history and politics, and an experience that will be valuable in any field of work they choose in future,” Amemiya added.

When completed, the film will be subtitled in Korean, Japanese, and English, and made available to teachers to use in classrooms, and will be posted on YouTube and other websites.

Students are to be recruited via the The Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation, which will advertise the project on its website (www.jkcf.or.jp).

The program now is seeking for counterpart organizations in the Seoul area, which could help recruiting Korean students.

For more information or to volunteer to help with the project email: process2gether@yahoo.com.

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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