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Peace message from Hiroshima, Japan‘Peace teacher’ visits Jeju
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승인 2009.08.25  20:54:58
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▲ “Peace is understood not merely as the absence of war or physical violence,” says Okamoto Mitsuo, professor at Hiroshima Shudo University, shown here. “Peace also means no poverty, since poverty is a structural violence.” Photo by Song Jung-hee.

“Peace is understood not merely as the absence of war or physical violence” says Okamoto Mitsuo, professor at Hiroshima Shudo University. “Peace also means no poverty, since poverty is a structural violence,” continues the 76 year-old professor with a long, grey beard who pioneered peace education in Japan.

Teaching peace
In contrast to such “direct violence” as war or terrorism, peace evolves into a new connotation of “structural violence” such as poverty, starvation, injustice, disease, political suppression and even environmental destruction.
His crusade to build peace through education dates back to the 1960s when he was an instructor teaching German to university students in Japan. His peace education, an attempt to foster the creation of peace for the first time in Japan, gained both attention and support as the Vietnam War reached its peak.

Having shifted his efforts to teaching peace from teaching language, Prof. Okamoto is now serving as a director of Hiroshima Center for Nonviolence and Peace as well as a peace educator at the university.

From brutal past comes peace
His life-time dedication to teaching about peace and building a peace network does not end in Japan. He visited Jeju island from Aug. 3 to 8 following his first visit back in 2007 to further spread peace message for the Third Peace Island School of 2009 organized by College of Law and Political Science of Jeju National University, Suffolk University of USA, and World Association for Island Studies.

He lectured on the “Japanese peace and its relationships with Korea, Taiwan, China, and USSR” and shed light on the Jeju April 3rd massacre from the points of view of the Hiroshima tragedy.

“Jeju should be a center of peace, and peace education in Asia, just as Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a city of peace after the ashes of atomic bombing.”

He raises his voice for the importance of Jeju’s position as a pillar of peace to lead its way to reconstruction from the tragedy. It’s an irony, but “brutality has turned into a symbol of justice and peace in both Hiroshima and Jeju island.”

He hopes to explore concrete ways of connecting Hiroshima to Jeju island in the fields of peace education in summer of 2010. A plan is underway to develop a peace education exchange program which would complement the regular peace workshop or forum.

Peace Island cruise proposed
In line with this, Ko Chang-Hoon, a professor at Jeju National University who invited him seeks to launch “Jeju-based Peace Island Cruise” journeys as one project of mega-regional policy to boost the southern sea belt of the Korean peninsula.

The Peace Boat is a Japan-based non-governmental organization that works to promote peace and human rights and carries out its missions through a chartered passenger ship that travels the globe on peace voyages. Prof. Okamoto has joined the journeys as onboard speaker several times, which he said was very enjoyable.

The peace messenger from Hiroshima planted a seed of peace on Jeju soil, hoping to come back soon to water it and watch it grow.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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