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Asian Spirit: Another Kim Hye-gyong    By Keiko Iwata
Chapter 9: Messages
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.

The three and a half years she spent living in Japan has taught Hye-gyong many lessons and helped her mature into a tougher person.

Hye-gyong feels that she learned from Mother the importance of communicating her own feelings with others and that the heart matures by starting with tiny things like this .

Shortly after they had first met Mother asked, "What characters do you use for your name, Hye-gyong?"

"Hye" means "Megumi" in the old Japanese kanji.

"The left part of 'Gyong'is this kanji. . ." Just as she tried to show Mother with her finger, Mother said,

"'Hye'sounds a little boyish, and 'Gyong'sounds a bit too heavy. Let me call you 'Kyon'from now on."

But Hye-gyong had objections deep inside.

"Gyong" comes from the name of a jewel that is favored and worn by Korean brides from its alluring shine that "vitalizes the heart." Therefore, "Gyong" implies delicacy.

After a while, they decided on the nickname, "Kyon Kyon," because she said that it was "cuter than 'Kyon'."

Hye-gyong felt a little bashful because there was a Japanese actress with the same nickname. But now she really likes this nickname that Mother gave her.

"Q-chan" was also nicknamed by Mother.

When he met Mother for the first time and introduced himself to her, because the first kanji of his name started with a "Q" sound, she immediately reached out her hand and said,

"Nice to meet you, Q-chan!"

Such a sharp intuition and rich mind cannot be emulated.

Language is an essential means of letting one's heart speak. Hye-gyong often realized this in Japan while learning Japanese.

She rediscovered through her studies of linguistics in Japan that people enrich or heal their heart when they are affected by "beautiful and kind words."

At first, after a year and a half at Japanese language school, Hye-gyong had been thinking of "going back to Korea first and then deciding what to do". However, gradually inspired by subtle Japanese expressions and linguistic histories, she fostered a stronger desire to learn.

Before she left Korea, her friends said to her,

"Why would you dump a stable life here to stay in Japan?"

"Are you out of your mind?"

They may have been straightforward and harsh opinions.

However, not everyone disapproved of her decision.

A male, who was her senior at the university Hye-gyong graduated from, lived in Japan for a year as a technical trainee at a Nagano factory after working as an engineer at a Korean company. Through his own experience of living in Japan, he recalled,

"I didn't realize until I left my country that there were so many things I hadn't seen and done."

He further advised her, "Life is short. You should do what you want to do when you can."

A female teacher whom Hye-gyong liked a lot at the vocational school she attended in Korea also had the experience of living in Japan.

"It may be difficult at times, but it's better to go than to regret not going. You might discover something," she encouraged Hye-gyong.

In the midst of the mixed opinions, Hye-gyong was encouraged and backed up by both opinions, and gradually solidified her decision.

Her friends, who once strongly objected to her going to Japan, seem to have forgotten all about this, and now jealously say, "I wish I were you," or "I envy you."

Among them, some are housewives who are now busy raising children.

Life in Japan was not full of good experiences, but "many irreplaceable encounters" and "efforts twice as hard as anyone else," must have made her who she is now. She firmly states, "My studies at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies have completely changed my life."

Her parents were fortunate that they never had painful experiences or memories from World War II.

Hye-gyong is so grateful for her aboji and omoni, who approved of her studying abroad although they did worry about her.

"I will do everything in my power to send you to Japan for university," Hye-gyong vowed to her younger brother, who is 13 years younger than her and lives in Korea.

It cannot be denied that persistent anti-Japanese sentiments still remain in Korea.

Some say, "Don't be deceived by the Japanese!"

There are others who say, "Japanese people are cold."

But Hye-gyong came to believe that her generation "bears the responsibility to build partnerships with neighboring countries without being caught up in their own biases."

Mother says, "You have the virtues of modesty, kindness, and compassion that Japanese women today have completely forgotten."

Hye-gyong wishes to continue cherishing these words.

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