Japanese and Korean students wearing the same polo shirts, smiling and chatting

Program Background

After providing emergency aid for the damage caused by floods in 1995 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), since 1996 we have formed a network with other organizations to support children in North Korea. However, it was difficult to gain support and understanding from Japanese society. We recognized that mutual understanding is important for building peace in Northeast Asia. We therefore started an exchange program of children’s paintings in 2001 called “Friends of Northeast Asia – Exchange Exhibition of Children’s Art”. Since 2012, we have also been conducting an exchange program for university students from Japan and students at the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. We have also been conducting study sessions as an annual program since 2018.

We gave emergency aid to North Korea with all our hearts, even if it was on a small scale.

Stories from Our Activities

At our art exhibition in June, we received messages from collaborators and graduates of the Friends of Northeast Asia to celebrate the 20th anniversary. In 2010, one of the participants drew a picture of himself as a college student under the theme of “Me in 10 years.” We received an update from him that says, “The dream I had for myself has become a reality this year.” He also said, “Friends of Northeast Asia was a wonderful experience that inspired me to realize my dream. I want to see all the friends I met and the friends who have made their dreams come true. I want to share new dreams with them.” You can see that the Friends of Northeast Asia program remains a precious memory for children in Pyongyang as well.

A picture drawn in 2010 by a Pyongyang graduate who sent us a recent update. “I will be a university student.”

Friends of Northeast Asia for friendship between South Korea, North Korea, and Japan

Outline of Activities

With the support of many people, the Friends of Northeast Asia has continued for 20 years. We held a 20th anniversary painting exhibition in June 2021 and about 250 people visited us over three days. At the exhibition hall, we exhibited 60 paintings with the theme of “The Future I Create” and 373 flags from our co-production “Everyone’s Wishes to Reach the Sky.” In the “20 Years of the Friends of Northeast Asia,” which looks back on the history of the past 20 years, we exhibited 97 past works, as well as messages from graduates for the 20th anniversary. We could not visit North Korea, South Korea, or China due to the spread of COVID-19. However, we received artworks and congratulations via the Internet from these countries.

For our 20th anniversary exhibition, we received artwork from Pyongyang even in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic.

Observed Changes

Since we went to Pyongyang to receive the works in person every year, we had given up on collecting new works for the exhibition in June due to the spread of COVID-19. A staff member from Pyongyang contacted us and said, “we definitely want to participate in the 20th anniversary.” They offered to take pictures of the works and send them through the Internet. Thanks to their suggestions, we were able to hold our new painting exhibition “The Future I Create,” which included works from South Korea and China.

The special exhibition, “20 Years of the Friends of Northeast Asia,” will feature some of the works from the past 19 exhibitions.

Northeast Asian University Peace Exchange Program

Outline of Activities

The program started with 13 undergraduate and graduate students, and we conducted study sessions and fieldwork activities in Japan. The number of students who participated was low. But based on these students’ desire to eliminate hate crimes against Koreans, they decided to make the theme of their study the understanding of why there are still perpetrators of hate crimes today. We had planned to conduct fieldwork only once, due to the pandemic. However, we held online study sessions and felt the importance of face-to-face study sessions and were able to conduct fieldwork in Osaka in February and Saitama in March.

We conducted Osaka fieldwork and visited Ikuno Korea Town and other places. Our guide told us about the day of the hate speech in front of Tsuruhashi Station, as well as local history.

Observed Changes

Based on the ideas of the students, one theme was decided for the year, and study sessions were held regularly to deepen understanding. The students took turns deciding on the theme, and the instructors supplemented the content of the theme. Later, Koreans living in Japan joined in and gave advice. The students not only participated in the study group, but also actively let others know about the exhibition. They are contributing to peace in the community.

Our Partner Organization

Corporation Okedongmu Children in Korea

An NGO that supports children in North Korea and conducts cultural exchange and peace education. Okedongmu means “friends having arms on each other’s shoulders” and having the same height and the same mind.

[Source: JVC Annual Report 2021]

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