March 1, 2011｜Korean Peninsula
Researcher, Institute for Global Affairs, Kyung Hee University
First of all, I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy to all those affected by the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake which occurred on 11 March. Witnessing the earthquake, so huge that it will go down in human history, I decided to hurriedly change the opinion piece I had planned. I ask for your understanding.
The earthquake occurred on the Pacific side, but there is also the possibility of one occurring at any time on the East Sea (Sea of Japan), which we make our area of research; we keenly feel, before such a huge earthquake as this, the powerlessness of human beings, yet I think rather that today’s global problems don’t end up being one country’s problem, but are an opportunity to reconfirm that cooperation with neighboring countries is absolutely imperative. This time, with the exception of the US military in Japan, the ones who were fastest to rush to the disaster scene were an ROK rescue team and search dogs. This was an event that symbolizes how close East Asian nations are, starting with the two nations of Japan and the ROK, and it should probably be said that the era has come for considering human security with a way of thinking about security, differing from old-fashioned national security, in which we should guarantee the security of individual human beings.
Japan has cited human security as one of its foreign policies since the time of the Obuchi Cabinet, but it has been mainly handled by means of monetary support to other countries as part of its foreign policy. Seeing for myself a huge earthquake disaster like the recent one, however, I thought that they must swiftly formulate a plan for human security directed not externally, but toward the Japanese people. In that case what then can we regional researchers do at a time of emergency like now? Such matters as rescue and disaster countermeasures can of course only be entrusted to the specialists, but it is possible that the reconstruction after this earthquake will last a considerably long time, and so isn’t just such a time an opportunity to fulfill the societal obligations of we researchers? The significance of East Sea rim (Japan Sea rim) research doesn’t stop at the issues of only the “region” itself, and that there must be a broad scholarly schema that covers the issues for each nation of the East Sea rim (Japan Sea rim) and the international community is, even after the experience to date, an accepted fact. As in the proverb “out of disaster springs fortune”, for the reconstruction for this earthquake and the long haul, we researchers from the ROK, Japan, China and Russia have a duty to provide works, and the blueprints thereof, to continue substantiating the advancement of the support and cooperation that we should undertake as human beings for other human beings, overcoming such things as nationalist sentiment and the internal situations and politics of our own countries. Now is the time that East Sea rim (Japan Sea rim) researchers, who precisely best understand the East Sea rim (Japan Sea rim) region, must act, putting to the fore truly meaningful earthquake reconstruction and a compassion toward our fellow human beings that transcends national boundaries. This huge earthquake has today taught us, along with the terrifying power of nature, that if human beings, albeit of little strength, help one another, then there is infinitely great potential. We may be South Korean, Japanese and Chinese, but we must not forget that before that we are members of the human race living on planet earth.
[Translated by ERINA]