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Asian Spirit: Another Kim Hye-gyong    By Keiko Iwata
Chapter 15: Young Asians
Asian Spirit Archive

About Asian Spirit

A compilation of nonfiction essays, the book comprises the experiences, both good and bad, that author Keiko Iwata shared with South Korean students living and studying in Japan.

About Keiko Iwata

Keiko Iwata is the representative of the NPO Heart Connections, which provides non-Japanese students with consultation services to help them solve problems related to living and studying in Japan. Iwata authored the book "Asian Spirit" (published in February 2004).

About Larry Greenberg

Larry Greenberg is the founder of Urban Connections Co. Ltd., an enterprising group of professionals that strives to provide innovative solutions to the latest challenges.

Hye-gyong is surrounded by ambitious learners. Among these students, this person is at the top of the list.

Budi, who is Indonesian, came to Japan right after he graduated high school. He came relying on his brother who was two years older than him

To be acknowledged in this country, he decided to start learning "Japanese." For a year, he went to a vocational school in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Having watched his older brother devoting himself to studying at a Japanese university, Budi firmly felt, "I want to do the same!" and when he made his resolution to follow his brother's steps, he set his mind on entering the Faculty of Engineering at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.

When he was in elementary school, he surprised his family when he took apart a plastic model that his father had just bought for him. Then, he surprised them once more when he put back the pieces that he broke apart on purpose and "rebuilt" the model. This was probably the start of his personal feelings toward construction.

"When I grow up, I'm going to become an engineer."

He maintained this mindset as he matured. He had also been determined to live abroad after high school.

The U.S., a world power; Germany, the country of engineering; and Japan, the country of technology, were all attractive to Budi. He may have narrowed down his choices to these countries because he had relatives or friends in each of them.

In the end, he chose Japan because it was the best combination in terms of the "number of relatives and friends," "problems with living," "quality of schools," and "public safety."

He studied diligently throughout his four years at this university, and with his sincere attitude, he continued at graduate school for two years at Chuo University.

These past few years he had thought, "What can I do after my graduation?" Then he realized,

"I want to work here in Japan. I've always wanted to become an engineer!"

His determination only strengthened.

Last spring when job-hunting season began, he also started searching for a job in Japan.

He was rejected by the first job he approached at a small machine manufacturer. However, soon after, he was staring at his "offer letter," not knowing how to react to this unbelievably fortunate opportunity. The letter was from a major Japanese car manufacturer. He wrote in Japanese about "his thoughts" on the back of his exam papers,

"At this company I want to become an engineer who is recognized around the world."

Budi believed that the new energy and atmosphere that the French CEO brought to this company would open the doors to hiring foreigners.

Indonesia, his home country, is still considered a developing country. Budi feels that giving Indonesia the opportunities necessary for its development is a task that must be started from now on. The first time he went to go buy ice cream, the storekeeper told him, "One ice cream is 100 yen."

When he thought, "I would be able to buy ten ice creams with 100 yen," he felt so bothered that he left without buying any.

He wants to continue working hard towards his goal until the day comes when prices become ten times higher in Indonesia and the gap in economy between these countries disappear.

"Limeng Chan" is a Chinese man whom Mother calls "Takeshi-kun." He is from Fujian and is the second son of three boys.

After he graduated from a local university, he began studying at the university's sister school, Rissho University. It has already been four years since he first arrived to Japan, and he currently stands at a crucial turning point in his life, trying to decide whether he will continue studying or start working.

In China, he was in the Literature Department, and in Japan he studied in the English Literature Division of the Literature Department.

Being chosen as a government-sponsored foreign student is not an opportunity that is given to just anyone. But even with the monthly aid of 70,000 yen, he could hardly pay for his living expenses, let alone his school fees. After he finishes classes for the day, he goes directly to his part-time work. Currently, he works at the same place as Mother.

Pressed by all his daily commitments, he admits, "I wish I could at least move into the 'exchange students' dorm' where Budi lives." It would take off a lot of strain from his responsibilities.

Takeshi-kun gives a glimpse of his wish.

He wants to go to graduate school, but when he thinks of his parents from back home, he becomes unsure of what he wants to do.

But he is sure of one fact.

"Whatever I do next, whether I continue studying or go home, I want to use the education I received to devote to Asia."

This is Takeshi-kun's spirit.

His spirit is like a stone that shines when polished.

There is also the Korean student "Shunhua Park" also called, "Jun-chan."

The nickname comes from "Shun" which is the same kanji as "Jun."

If Hye-gyong were a flower, she would be "the Turkish bellflower" because it is fresh and holds itself up straight, and Shunhua would be the "Korean rose of Sharon" because it doesn't lose against anything and cleverly grows straight up.

Shunhua's feelings toward Japan are the result of the path she paved for herself.

When she was a university student, she received some interesting news.

It was 1995.

About an hour and a half south by bus from Gwangju, there is a city said to be the best in Korea called "Gwangyang."

It had been a year after this city established sister city relations with Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. Hye-gyong heard that a friendly soccer game was going to be held between a middle school in Korea and a high school in Japan as an event for these sister schools.

These two schools had started developing their relations the previous year. Hye-gyong also heard from an associate that the first match had already been held in Korea in that year.

When she heard that "the next was going to be in Japan," she got excited. "If there is going to be an interpreting job," Shunhua thought, "I want to do it no matter what." Once her desire was sparked she couldn't stop, and she vehemently asked the management office for the job.

Initially, what triggered her interest in Japan were the references or magazines related to art or fashion design, which was her college major.

Shunhua's level of Japanese was limited to what she had learned in high school.

At the time, subscribing to Japanese books and magazines had been strictly prohibited by the country, but when she finally was able to get them, she couldn't help but wish she could understand the manual of the design book and captions of pictures.

"I want to know," "I want to be able to read this." Curiosity that built up in her motivated her to start learning Japanese on her own.

Her long-sought after wish to go to Japan had come true when "her trip to Sendai" was confirmed.

Her first opportunity to go to Japan led to the next and created a chain reaction.

She even temporarily left school to go back and forth between Korea and Japan building her interpreting experience.

These jobs were all volunteer work that didn't provide "meals" or give her any "pay" except for her "transportation costs." Nevertheless, what she learned from these experiences became assets that could not be bought.

Shunhua graduated her local university after studying there for seven years.

And for a year from October, 2000, she learned Japanese culture at the national Hokkaido University as a government-sponsored foreign student.

From September, 2001, she had gone directly to New Zealand and learned English by staying with a host family for six months.

She continued building her experiences like this, and she decided to devote her life to researching traditional dances, specifically the Japanese Gidayu and Korean Pansori.

The two cultures of these two countries together became Intangible Cultural Assets in 2003.

By giving "talks," Shunhua wishes to draw out the history of these countries, deepen her understanding, and pass down a message that transcends time to the next generation.

For this research, Shunhua has been living in Japan as a privately-financed foreign student since February, 2004.

She studied for four years as an undergraduate student and two years as a graduate student both at Tokyo Gakugei University. She felt fortunate to have found the one theme that she was able to spend six years immersing herself in.

In the future, she wants to go back to Korea and become a professor.

Hye-gyong is also turning 31 this year.

After she graduates Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, she is planning on building on her experiences in business at her current office, making commerce-related documents. Her eventual dream to become an "owner" has been gradually solidifying.

Budi Buonomo (27) aspires to become an engineer recognized by the world.

Limeng Chan (28) strives to become "Koizumi Yakumo" of the Heisei Era.

Shunhua Park (31) devotes herself to research on "Intangible Cultural Assets" of two countries.

There are many ways to learn but there is only "one spirit."

Whatever method they use, they are "assets of Asia."


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