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Japanese Actress Determined to Spread Word About Korea

Fukumi Kuroda

Japanese actress Fukumi Kuroda wants to deepen the so-called Korean Wave across Japan. Kuroda (54), who appears on Fuji TV and other networks, says she wants Japanese people to learn more about Korea than just its pop culture. 

"Now I would like to go beyond enthusiasm for Korean pop culture and let Japanese people find out about the traditions, nature, food and lifestyles of different regions of Korea," says Kuroda, who was a member of the executive committee at a Korea-Japan exchange festival at the Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo last Saturday. 

She says her desire comes from the lasting impression of warmth and beauty as she traveled through rural Korea, which she said is the true face of the country. This week, Kuroda is taking part in a program offered by KORAIL travelling throughout the country by specially-designed coach. Stops include Gokseong, South Jeolla Province; Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province; Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province; and Jeongdongjin, Gangwon Province.   

Kuroda, who debuted in 1977, started to take interest in Korea in the mid-1980s during the prime of her career when she became infatuated with Korean volleyball player Kang Man-soo. She then increasingly devoted herself to introducing Korea to Japan and is considered to have laid the groundwork for the spread of the Korean Wave in Japan. 

"The most difficult thing was to deal with prejudices against Korea that were deeply rooted in Japanese society as I strove to let more people learn about Korea over the last quarter of a century," she says. 

"Until just a few years ago, they treated me as if I was a second or third-generation Korean Japanese as I worked to promote Korea," she recalls. "I'm Japanese, but I was mistaken for Korean-Japanese." Kuroda says broadcasters even urged her to clearly state she was Japanese since an incorrect perception of her ethnicity could cause problems with her career. But she refused, saying that would be a form of discrimination. 

What does this year, which marks the 100th year of Japan's annexation of Korea, mean for Kuroda? "I feel very bad that some Japanese still have a warped view of history. But young Japanese are willing to look at Korea the right way, so the next 100 years will be different," she says. 

Kuroda says Korea and Japan need to understand and acknowledge their similarities and differences to make this year meaningful. "When somebody cries, Japanese people stay quiet thinking something sad must have happened," Kuroda says. "But Koreans ask what happened and cry together. It's not a matter of which is right or wrong. Perhaps we should just accept the differences in disposition and work together for a better relationship."

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