Champion boxer Masamori Tokuyama says his dream is to use his status as a well-known Korean resident of Japan to contribute to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
“My ultimate dream is to defend my title on a ring set on the 38th parallel border between the two countries, so that parted families can freely meet at the venue during my bout,” Tokuyama, the World Boxing Council super flyweight champion, told a luncheon Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
The 28-year-old Tokuyama, a pro-Pyongyang Korean resident of Japan whose real name is Hong Chan Su, visited the border during his last trip to North Korea in 2001.
Tokuyama became champion in August 2000. He has a career record of 29 wins, including eight knockouts, two losses and a draw. He successfully defended his title last week.
Despite the various social disadvantages, Tokuyama said he wants to continue living as a Korean resident of Japan. A native of Tokyo, he currently lives in Osaka.
He said his sense of “roots” comes from his respect for his father and love for his family.
“I have no intention of changing my nationality, as it is a precious heritage from my parents, just like my blood,” he said. “To me, changing nationality means something like a cosmetic surgery to make you look better. But it is clearly a betrayal of your parents.”
Tokuyama has consistently expressed his hope for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula, and is viewed by many as a Korean hero. However, he said he is least conscious of his ethnicity when he fights in the ring.
“Boxers may think they represent the Hinomaru flag or the Stars and Stripes when they stand in the ring, but I only concentrate on knocking down my opponent,” he said.
Japanese public sentiment toward North Korea has deteriorated since last year, and Tokuyama, one of Japan’s most famous and vocal pro-Pyongyang Korean residents, has fielded his share of harassment, he said.
His Web site was temporarily shut down after being bombarded with hostile messages, and he had to cancel a speech at a university event in October.
“But I also received various messages of encouragement” from Japanese people, he said. “I’m not a politician and I just want to live as a Korean boxer in Japan.”
His victory last week over former Japan champion Katsushige Kawashima was the seventh time Tokuyama had defended his title — the third-highest total for a belt holder from a Japanese gym.
Tokuyama said his short-term goal is to extend his boxing career, either by seeking the World Boxing Association championship as a WBC champion, or by moving to the bantamweight class.
“I can probably have another bout this year, but I want to take a break from boxing for a while,” he said.
Tokuyama, who married in March, said he is planning to take his honeymoon. The boxer proposed to his wife, a Korean resident of Japan, from the ring after a victory in December 1999.
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