Furthering people-to-people links beyond governmental relations

As Japanese-Korean relations continue their stagnation on the basis of historical tensions, the doubling of defense expenditure and acquisition of counter strike capability announced in the Three Security Documents on account of the ever more frequent missiles fired from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) have aggravated the “East Asia Emergency”, causing the vision of a peaceful future to get murkier day by day. Within Japan, there has been no progress toward solving the exclusion that Koreans face in our society, and hate crimes against Korean schools are getting worse. Within these circumstances, we, another member of East Asia, aim to establish the foundations of peacebuilding not between two governments, but between two peoples.

Activities in 2022

Friends of Northeast Asia Plus

A total of 169 drawings inspired by the theme “My News” were collected from children in North Korea, South Korea, China (Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture) and Japan (Japanese and Zainichi Koreans, Koreans living in Japan), and exhibited online. During the exhibition period, we held an in-person Friends of Northeast Asia Exhibition Day where essayist Ebina Kayoko led a gallery talk and supporters gathered for a “Friends of Northeast Asia Exhibition Meeting”. The meeting was motivated by the issues raised by young people about surrounding hate crimes directed toward Korean schools. Students and teachers from Korean schools told their own stories, and participants shared opinions.

The Friends of Northeast Asia Plus

Northeast Asian University Peace Forum

As overseas exchange remains difficult due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we held an open seminar by inviting photojournalist Yasuda Natsuki, offering an exchange avenue for those looking to meet others interested in peacebuilding in East Asia. We also had a study session and fieldwork within Japan. The study session was an opportunity for previous participants of the Exchange Program for University Students from Japan and North Korea, which has been suspended since 2019, to pass on their own experiences and lessons from their exchange, drawing on conversations with students who they had met in Pyongyang. The fieldwork was held in Hiroshima in October and Kobe in February.

The Northeast Asian University Peace Forum, the first in-person seminar in three years

Results and challenges in 2022

Facilitating activities in line with the times

Seeking to flourish even under the remaining effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of Northeast Asia painting exhibition was held online in order to reach wider audiences, and the Northeast Asian University Peace Exchange Program was similarly converted to an online “forum” to ensure easier participation. Ongoing problems remained this year, including the Friends of Northeast Asia exhibition holding weak appeal among Japanese audiences and low participation rates among Japanese children, as well as difficulty facilitating travel for the Exchange Program for University Students from Japan and North Korea. However, even as the exchange program has been suspended, general overseas exchange has reached new heights in popularity, we hope to develop and deliver a more fulfilling program to future participants.

By meeting and speaking in person, it’s not only an opportunity for learning, but fun

Activity plan for 2023

Maintaining a platform for meeting and exchange

The Friends of Northeast Asia will once again be held online, displaying paintings and messages collected from across all of Northeast Asia. Leveraging the power of art and the cooperation of experts in the field, we plan to expand the field of activities that we offer at the exhibition, for example, through workshops, to facilitate learning through participation and encourage international understanding. When North Korea travel becomes a possibility again, in order to have meaningful exchanges with university students from neighboring countries, we intend to continue the Northeast Asian University Peace Forum. Students interested in peace in Northeast  Asia furthering each other’s knowledge of historical and social issues with aims to think of ways to create a peaceful future together.

A participant from Japan writing a message to a painter from Pyongyang

Learning about Japan’s capacity to contribute harm in the context of the Korean victims of the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima

Voices and Messages

The great realization I experienced during the Hiroshima fieldwork

Maeda Taketoshi

Kyoto University of the Arts, First Year Student

The fieldwork expedition to Hiroshima really had an impression on me. I was always set in my view that Japan was the victim, but learning that there are Koreans in Hiroshima who were similarly affected by the bombings, I began to wonder whether you can really say that Japan is the only country that has been affected by nuclear bombing. It became clear to me that Japan is not just a victim of the bombing, but can also be attributed blame for the harm that came to the Koreans who were only in Japan because of Japan’s colonial practices. I think the ability to see the other side of the debate that the Hiroshima fieldwork expedition provided me will go on to guide my perspective toward Japan’s capacity to contribute harm in my studies going into the future.

My News (from Pyongyang)

A piece from the Friends of Northeast Asia


I drew a picture of my father, my grandmother and I taking off our masks after winning against COVID. We don’t need to wear masks anymore, so we went outside and cheered in celebration. We went to the Central Zoo and the Daeseong-san Amusement Park, and it was a lot of fun. Let’s beat this evil virus and meet again in the future.

[Source: JVC Annual Report 2022]

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