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Rediscovering Common Bonds among Japan, China, and Korea

Identifying Cultural Commonalities and Shared Challenges

2014 – 2017

Japan, China, and Korea—three countries that neighbor one another in East Asia—have been overcoming their troubled history and deepening their friendship over the past half century. Recently however, divisions related to territorial disputes and historical issues have led to chilly relations and a deepening of anti-Chinese, anti-Korean, and anti-Japanese sentiment.

Nevertheless, these three countries are historically and culturally connected, as evidenced by their use of Chinese characters. They all face similar 21st-century challenges that transcend their borders, such as environmental problems and declining birth rates, and a new type of cultural exchange has been developing, led by the younger generations in each country.

Indeed, Eastern civilization and wisdom centered on these three countries may prove useful in addressing the various problems generated by the shift toward globalization that has been spearheaded by the West over the past several decades. By working together with the young generation that will serve as tomorrow's leaders, this project seeks to rediscover the bonds between Japan, China, and Korea and to explore their potential role in the 21st century.

Starting in the fall of 2014, the project will hold a series of public seminars every two months. The guest speakers will be experts on the cultural commonalities between Japan, China, and Korea, and they will address topics related to the following four categories:

  1. Common cultural foundation (Chinese characters, Confucian/Buddhist culture, india ink paintings, Eastern medicine, and food culture, etc.)
  2. The new shared culture (anime, dramas, movies, pop music, sports, etc.)
  3. Common challenges (water shortages, air pollution, energy, aging populations, social inequality, education, etc.)
  4. Causes of friction (territorial disputes, conflicting historical views, etc.)

The initial seminars are being held in Tokyo, with subsequent seminars planned for China and Korea. In addition, in order to contribute to the development of the younger generation, arrangements will be made for the participation of students in the seminars.

Events & Seminars

February 21, 2017—How Professionals in Various Fields Are Building the Future of China-Japan-Korea Ties
As IT develops and the flow of people across borders increases, there are more and more people plying their trade outside of their native country. China, Japan, and Korea are no exception, and they are seeing a substantial exchange of people across their borders. In the final seminar of this series, we invited a Japanese man working in China, a Korean woman working in Japan, and a Chinese woman working in Korea to discuss their unique experiences. What hurdles have they had to overcome as they have pursued their professions abroad? The three participants stressed that an appreciation and understanding of cultural diversity is the key to developing cross-cultural communication, and they advised young people to see one another as individuals rather than defining people by their nationalities.

November 11, 2016—China-Japan-Korea Special Movie Talk: Commonalities and Differences among China, Japan, and Korea as Seen through the Movie "Susanghan geunyeo"/"Ayashii kanojo"/"Chóng fǎn èrshí suì"
This unique event brought together the director of a Korean movie together with the directors of Japanese and Chinese versions of the film for the first time to explore how these three versions illustrate the similaririties and differences among the three countries. They were also joined by the Korean actress who starred in the movie and a representative from CJ E&M, which co-financed the films. The movie, known in Japanese as Ayashii Kanojo, is about a crotchety 70-year-old woman who is transformed back into a 20-year-old and given a second chance at life.


October 5, 2016—Special Event: China-Japan-Korea Environmental Symposium: Strategies for Information-Sharing and Cooperation
JCIE held a special symposium at Peking University in Beijing so that China, Japan, and South Korea could share their experiences grappling with environmental problems and discuss strategies for deeper trilateral cooperation.

May 12, 2016—Talking with America about China-Japan-Korea Relations
The eighth seminar in the series brought together Gerald Curtis, one of America’s leading experts on Japanese politics and diplomacy and on US-Japan relations, as well as other experts to explore America’s relationship to trilateral China-Japan-Korea ties. The current trilateral diplomatic strategy is closely tied to each country’s relationship with America and the strategic calculations of all four countries are closely interconnected, not only in terms of national security but also on the economic and financial fronts. What does the Japan, Korea, and China system mean to the US? How should the three countries proceed? Keeping in mind the North Korean nuclear problem and controversial US presidential election, speakers discussed these questions from a global perspective.

December 1, 2015—TV Dramas as a Reflection of the Times
What do our TV shows say about our societies? In 2007, NTV aired a series called "Haken no Hinkaku" (pride of the temp), which had a storyline that reflected the rising tide of temp workers following deregulation. In 2013, as Korea experienced a similar boom in irregular employment, the show was remade for the that market, airing as Jikjangui Shin (god of the workplace). The producers of these two shows met for the first time in Tokyo yesterday at JCIE's 6th seminar on "Rediscovering Common Bonds among Japan, China, and Korea," where they discussed the commonalities and differences reflected in these two dramas.

September 16, 2015—Taste the Expanding World of Tea
The fifth seminar of the series will focus on the theme of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese tea culture. Along with a tea ceremony demonstration and tasting, the event will explore how the tea world is growing in various ways through different methods of manufacturing and drinking tea using similar tealeaves. Influenced by China, the Korean peninsula, and Europe, Japan’s tea ceremony became part of Japan’s unique culture. Urasenke-taught Zhang Jianli will discuss the distinctive characteristics of Japanese culture through a comparison of Japanese and Chinese tea drinking practices and tea culture. Korea’s Kim Sochan will unravel the history of the ido tea bowl—used as a daily bowl in the Korean pennisula but viewed as the best example of a korai tea bowl in Japan—while showing scenes from his self-produced program, “Korea’s Ido Tea Bowl.” Konno Junko, who runs a Chinese tea salon in Japan, will introduce the charm of the Chinese tea ceremony with a demonstration and a discussion of her experience with China-Japan exchange through the Chinese tea ceremony.

June 5, 2015—Screening and Discussion: Learning from Pre-modern Korean Diplomacy
To commemorate 50 years of normalized diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan, JCIE's 4th "Rediscovering Common Bonds among Japan, China, and Korea” seminar explored a joint effort by the two countries to request that historic documents describing Korean missions to Japan be placed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
The seminar began with the screening of a 1979 documentary by scholar Shin Gisu that traces the history of the Joseon missions during the Edo period. The speakers included Gang Jae Eon, former professor at Hanazono University and Korean history scholar who assisted in the making of the film; Wang Min, professor at Hosei University, who added the Chinese perspective; Yoichi Sai, a famous Japanese filmmaker who has studied modern Korean film history; and Akinari Takehisa, the mayor of Setouchi, where the missions landed.

March 16, 2015—Interacting Cultures
The third seminar in this series of meetings examining the commonalities among China, Japan, and Korea, brought Associate Professor Masako Furuichi of Peking University along with students who belong to a club at that university for fans of Japanese manga, anime, and gaming (the club has about 2,800 members, 800 of whom are at the Peking University). These participants shared a performance and talked about the impact of Japanese culture on China. They were joined by international politics scholar Associate Professor Kwon Yongseok of Hitotsubashi University, who is also an expert on Japanese and Korean pop culture. Through these discussions, participants gained a deeper understanding of how Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cultures are interacting to form a new form of cultural exchange.

January 16, 2015—A Fierce and Mutually Beneficial Rivalry
The second event looked at China-Japan-Korea relations through the lens of soccer. The event included Takeshi Okada, former coach of Japan's men's national soccer team who is currently coaching Hangzhou Greentown Football Club in the Chinese Super League; Seigo Ikeda, former assistant coach of the Korean men's national team; and Yoo Sang-chul, former member of the Korean men's national team whose career was divided nearly equally between the K-League and the J. League.

November 25, 2014—Opening up Future Possibilities through Stage and Video
Leading Japanese playwright/director Koji Hasegawa (director of a collaborative China-Japan-Korea theatrical piece) and winners of the Trilateral New Wave contest (an annual video contest operated by the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat to encourage Chinese, Japanese, and Korean students to work together to create short videos) joined in a dialogue on China-Japan-Korea relations and their experiences with collaborative artistic projects.

Related Programs

November 14, 2015—China-Japan-ROK Youth Dialogue: Toward Shared Understanding of and Responses to Common Life Challenges

Cooperating Organizations

Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (Seoul, Korea)
(Japan) Shibusawa Ei'ichi Memorial Foundation; MRA House
(China) Institute of Japanese Studies, CASS; Center of Japanese Studies, Peking University
(Korea) East Asia Foundation; Institute of Japanese Studies, Seoul National University; Dongseo University