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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Koreans bridge ethnic divide

Kyodo News

Pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan, often a target of ethnic and political prejudice, have been offering help to distraught Japanese victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Leading members of the minority group say they are bound by a common sense of mission to save people's lives regardless of ethnic origin.

In Fukushima Prefecture, a pro-Pyongyang Korean elementary and junior high school sheltered some 30 local residents ranging in age from 6 to 84. About half were Japanese who fled from coastal areas hit by the tsunami.

About 10 victims each were accommodated in one classroom of the school building, which was furnished with space heaters and futon. There Japanese and Koreans talked about what to do about their bleak future and comforted each other.

Kazuhiko Hangai, a 51-year-old Japanese resident of Futaba, a town 4 km from the crippled nuclear plant, took refuge in the school with his father at the urging of his Korean friend.

Hangai's 84-year-old father has diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and needs to take 11 kinds of medicine.

When Hangai talked about his father's medical needs, an aid worker dispatched by the North Korean-affiliated General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, drove the ailing octogenarian to a hospital in Koriyama.

Hangai expressed gratitude, saying, "I couldn't have saved my father on my own."

Korean permanent residents of Japan close to Pyongyang can face harassment because of North Korea's abductions of Japanese decades ago and the country's engagement in nuclear weapon programs.

But the Japanese and Korean victims at the Fukushima school cooperated to do the dishes and shared lighthearted moments, playing baseball and soccer in the schoolyard in the wintry weather.



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