• Kyodo, Staff Report


Japanese and North Korean university students have been meeting and building friendships in Pyongyang during a six-day exchange event that started Wednesday.

In the event, 10 students from Japan met with 16 students who are learning Japanese at the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, most of whom have never met Japanese nationals before.

A representative of the Relief Campaign Committee for Children, the organizer of the event, said the organization hopes the interaction will serve as a step toward improving ties between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations.

On the first day, the students met in a classroom at the North Korean university and shared details about their lives as students and their dreams for the future. Pak Yun Son, a 17-year-old student at the university who is a fan of Japanese anime films, said he “wants to go to Japan and visit places featured in the movies.”

On Thursday, they toured the North Korean capital and took part in other activities.

“Issues between Japan and North Korea can be resolved if the Japanese government pays compensation for the colonial period,” including over the issue of so-called comfort women, said Kim Jong Chon, 23, also a student at the university.

The term “comfort women” is a euphemism used to refer to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Yukiya Kubo, a 25-year-old senior student at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, responded, “If Japan resolves the (issues of the) past and builds a friendship with North Korea, it will become a foothold for peace in all of East Asia.”

“While there are clashes of views coming from different stances, students from both Japan and North Korea have been trying to become friends by overcoming barriers,” said Yukiko Tsutsui, the secretary-general of the nongovernmental organization.

“Repeated exchanges are the first step toward building peace,” she added.

On Monday, the last day of the program, the students are expected to jointly take part in another exchange event on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to the organizer.

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