The following is a summary of the breakout session “U.S.-Japan-Korea Partnership through Exchanges” at the 2014 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on October 10, 2014.
- Mr. Daniel Bob, Director of Programs and Senior Fellow, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Moderator)
- Dr. Lee-Jay Cho, Chairman, Northeast Asia Economic Forum
- Ms. Nicole Forrester, Director of the Young Leaders Program at Pacific Forum
- Mr. Ed Hawkins, President, Japan-America Society of Hawaii
- Mr. Hyun-oh “Sean” Kim, Political Affairs Officer, Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Honolulu
- Mr. Toyoei Shigeeda, Consul General of Japan in Honolulu
- Mr. Yuuki Shinomiya, Executive Director, International Student Conferences, Inc.
The moderator of the roundtable began the session with comments emphasizing the importance of trilateral co-operation between the U.S., Japan and Korea. He spoke about the importance of dealing collectively with issues in the region, and noted that it is crucial to facilitate strategic dialogue among the three countries.
The panelists discussed the recent political climate among the three countries, including PM Abe’s official request for a bilateral meeting with South Korea, which is yet to take place, and the role the United States played. They all agreed about the complexity of issues including comfort women and territorial disputes, which often overshadow the important relationship between South Korea and Japan. However, they also noted that the public is able to recognize political comments or differentiate gaps in perceptions by different generations towards such issues.
The panelists then discussed the importance of exchanges at a grass-roots level. One of the panelists explained that he has witnessed many cases where the first friends that Japanese or Korean people make when they study at U.S. institutions are Korean or Japanese. He also mentioned how Koreans reached out to the Japanese immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The panelists agreed that positive exposure to other cultures and people at an early stage in life would help generate mutual respect and understanding. The TOMODACHI Initiative was mentioned as a perfect example. They also noted the importance of educational exchanges and emphasized the importance of investing in the young generation now, in order to deepen relations among the three countries in the future. These points were repeated by the audience.
Click here to learn more about the 2014 Annual Conference.