Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien nav lang search
Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Report on the Peaceboat North South Korea Voyage – “Setting sail for a new Asia”

26. September 2001

Nicola Liscutin

Nicola Liscutin’s farewell presentation will be less concerned with her current research than with an extraordinary journey that took her together with 540 passengers, mostly Japanese, to both North and South Korea. The trip was organized by the Japanese NGO Peaceboat, whose staff spent three years of intense negotiations and efforts to realize this truly historical event, for after the Korean war no Japanese travel group had been allowed to visit with the same ship both the north and the south of the Korean peninsula.

In September 1983, Peaceboat set sail for the first time. One immediate cause for the journey then (and now), as well as for the founding of the NGO Peaceboat, was the “history textbook controversy” of 1982. The 1982 controversy was sparked by the news that the Japanese Ministry of Education chose to present Japan’s 15-year war in Asia no longer as an “invasion” (shinryaku) in history textbooks and school curricula, but camouflaging Japan’s aggression instead as an “advance” (shinshutsu). Similar to the current controversy, this distortion of history drew massive protests from Korea, China, Taiwan, and other Asian nations. Ever since, Peaceboat has organized 33 other cruises with great success, aiming to promote deeper mutual understanding among different cultures through on-site learning and exchange and to create “a new Culture of Peace.”

20 years later, yet another “history textbook controversy” formed the focus of the “Peaceboat North South Korea Voyage” from 27 August to 8 September. Alongside the various sessions and events for the main program “History education and Japanese responsibility for its wartime past” (with the scholars Takahashi Tetsuya, Arai Shinichi, N. Liscutin and Wieland Wagner of the weekly Spiegel) , three other topics were addressed in lectures, panel discussions, and working groups: The movement for the establishment of nuclear-free zones (represented by members of the New Zealand-based NGO Abolition 2000; Amano Fumiko, a Hiroshima survivor and long-time peace activist as well as the scholar Kawabe Ichirō); the movement against US military bases in Asia (represented by the scholars and activists Maeda Tetsuo, Kim Yong-Han and Lee Jae-Bong) and the “Life Mask Project” by the artist Kim Myong-Hee. Altogether 28 scholars, activists, and artists were involved in the lecture and entertaining program.

The presentation will provide an overview of the journey and its events, but will otherwise focus on issues related to the main program.