• Kyodo

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A movie about a Japanese and a South Korean high school student who meet and fall in love at a track and field competition in the late 1970s between this city and Pusan, South Korea, has prompted sports officials of the two cities to consider resuming the event.

The high school friendship meet started in 1971 and was held every other year until 1996, when it was suspended.

The film, “Chirusoku no Natsu” (“The Stars Converge”), directed by Kiyoshi Sasabe, tells the love story of Ikuko Endo and her boyfriend, South Korean student An Daiho, against the backdrop of Japanese bias against Koreans, who in turn harbor anti-Japanese feelings, and the situation in South Korea at that time.

The film has renewed interest in reviving the sports exchanges.

Yoshiaki Yamada, 67, president of the Shimonoseki City Athletics Federation, who helped to inaugurate the event, said, “Although Pusan is our closest foreign city, its citizens were not allowed to use the Japanese language at that time.

“Nevertheless, the high school students of the two cities got along very well with each other. I now understand how splendid the event was,” he said.

Yamada organized meetings to seek a revival of the friendly games, and he and others visited Pusan in March during a track and field event there.

They broached the idea in Pusan, and said the reaction was not bad. Hon San Bu, vice president of the Pusan City Athletics Federation, said: “I’ve seen the movie. It was splendid. We would like to resume the event, but on certain conditions.”

He was referring to sponsorship problems and the perceived wide gap between the athletic abilities of the high school students of the two cities.

In 2002, Pusan, the second-largest city in South Korea, hosted some of the World Cup soccer games as well as the Asian Games, and interest in sports is high in the city.

Shimonoseki, however, is a relatively small city that finds it hard to get sponsors for such an event, which was the main reason it was suspended in 1996.

However, there are also moves to explore a revived meet with a changed nature.

“How about making it an event for elementary school children, not high school students?” asked Katsumi Okamura, vice president of the Shimonoseki federation. “There isn’t as large a gap in competitive ability among elementary school children.”

Pusan’s Hon is also said to be keen to resuming the event in a new form.

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