By KAZUTAKA ITO
With the relationship between Japan and South Korea on the rocks, the University of Tokyo and Seoul National University are hoping to be a catalyst to improving ties, setting up offices at each other’s campus to promote active exchanges.
The offices are aimed at serving as bases to improve cooling bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea, as well as improving academic performance through conducting joint research and promoting exchanges among professors and students.
At a symposium to mark the opening of the offices held at the University of Tokyo in Bunkyo Ward on April 14, Park Cheol-hee, a professor of Korea-Japan relations at Seoul National University, suggested offering a common course to understand each other’s country.
Park proposed that a course to study contemporary South Korea be started at the University of Tokyo, while a similar class for contemporary Japan be offered at SNU.
Junichi Hamada, president of the University of Tokyo, said, “I hope the University of Tokyo and SNU will continue to contribute greatly to boosting friendships and improving the relationship between Japan and South Korea.”
SNU President Oh Yeon-cheon said that both universities have obligations to promote firm friendships and mutual trust between the two countries.
The two prestigious universities have maintained academic and student exchanges since they signed an exchange agreement in 1990.
Utility costs, rents and communication fees will be exempt at each office, along with a full-time visiting researcher assigned to each office to strengthen the support system.
Both universities share concerns over their respective nations’ “most-deteriorated-in-the-recent-decade” relationship, said Tadashi Kimiya, professor of politics and international relations of Korea at the University of Tokyo graduate school.
Japan and South Korea have not held a formal one-on-one summit for more than a year since the launch of the administrations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.