▲ Kazuo Kodama, press secretary for the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Photo by Brian Miller
Being an international diplomat who flits around the world may seem an enviable job description for inveterate travelers, but the responsibilities involved often leave little time to explore each new environment. One such traveler is Kazuo Kodama, press secretary of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Based in Tokyo, Kodama visited Jeju for the first time at the end of May as part of the official party accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to the third trilateral summit between the Republic of Korea, Japan and the People’s Republic of China.
The annual talks were held at the International Convention Center Jeju, better-known as ICC Jeju, so participants were perched above the spectacular scenery of Jungmun Beach and the seascape beyond, despite having little time to fully appreciate the views. In a one-on-one interview with The Jeju Weekly, Kodama spoke of his brief impressions of the island and more serious matters.
“I could have just a glimpse of the sheer beauty and the beautiful vegetation and flowers and trees and the beautiful landscapes that this island has to offer,” he said. “I am very much impressed by Jeju and by Jeju hospitality.”
In the number of foreign tourists that visit Jeju Island, Japan ranks second only to China. “I think back in Japan Jeju Island is already well-known to the people as a beautiful island and a popular place for newlyweds,” Kodama said. “I think that explains why this island has been very popular with Japanese people. Plus, I can add, Jeju is very close to Japan.”
The veteran diplomat commended the organization and running of the trilateral talks. “I would really like to give a perfect score to the people in Jeju, the people of Korea and your strong leader-ship,” he said. “We do feel we are warmly welcomed not only by the local people but by your government.”
The press secretary said he had a very favorable image of Jeju Island, “although I have been here for only 24 hours." “I haven’t had time to enjoy the beautiful environment that this island can offer as a tourist as I have so many things to do as a spokesman for my prime minister,” he said. “My one impression is this – the island seems to be well-tended, well-maintained in every way to impress visitors.”
“The prime minister has really enjoyed his trip to Jeju.”
Before the summit meeting began, the three leaders observed a 10-second moment of silence for those killed aboard the Cheonan, a gesture proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette was one of the most serious items discussed at the talks.
Kodama said the Japanese government fully supported the Republic of Korea government in their response to the incident. “It has become clear that the sinking of Cheonan was caused by the North Korean torpedo attack. In light of the outcome of the very scientific and objective investigation conducted by the ROK and other countries, with the material evidence also accompanied, my government highly appreciates President Lee Myung Bak of ROK for his firm and calm leadership in addressing this challenge.
“The government of Japan cannot condone such a military provocation by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] by any means.”
Prime Minister Hatoyama talked to the Japanese traveling press corps on Sunday “and added that he had expressed in the morning session that Japan would support ROK at the UN Security Council if and when” the issue came before it, Kodama said.
“Japan is determined to cooperate and coordinate closely with ROK as well as with China based on a common under-standing that the Cheonan incident is a serious issue that concerns the peace and stability of North East Asia.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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