Thu, Dec 05, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Sailing towards peace

Akira Kawasaki says that interacting with and learning about the experiences of victims of historical atrocities can teach the young generation about empathy

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

Akira Kawasaki, far right, with members of the Peace Boat Hibakusha Project.

Photos courtesy of ICAN

After arriving in Hsinchu at the age of 16, Lee Yong-soo was repeatedly raped. She had been catching snails in what is today South Korea’s Daegu when she was kidnapped by a Japanese soldier and sent to Taiwan to serve as a sex slave for the Japanese military. She wouldn’t return home until the end of World War II.

Lee is among hundreds of thousands of women from throughout Asia, euphemistically know as “comfort women,” who were abducted from their homes to service Japanese soldiers in occupied territories before and during the war. Since 1998, she has traveled throughout the world discussing her experiences as a sex slave, a story that forms part of a lecture by Akira Kawasaki about using past atrocities to discuss peace education.

Kawasaki, a member of the Executive Committee of Peace Boat, a Japan-based international NGO working to promote peace, human rights and sustainability, will give the talk on Sunday as part of the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation’s Taipei Salon. The talk, in English, will be moderated by Shaw Mai-yi (邵梅儀), an academic at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“Peace Boat has promoted dialogue among Japanese, Korean and other Asian participants in pursuit of building a common history ... and a shared commitment to not repeat [past] mistakes, while promoting rights, dignity of and healing for those affected,” Kawasaki tells the Taipei Times.

It’s a project that is perhaps needed as much today as ever before. With authoritarianism on the rise throughout the globe and as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues a campaign of denial about Japan’s atrocities during World War II, Kawasaki’s goal to educate the younger generation will only grow in importance.

Event Notes

What: Nurturing Changemakers: Peace Education in a Globalized Era

When: Sunday from 2:pm to 3:30pm

Where: Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance (台灣金融研訓院), 2F, 62 Roosevelt Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路三段62號2樓)

Details: The talk is free, but those wanting to attend must pre-register at (English and Chinese). For more information, call Tiffany Jan, (02) 3322-4907, Ext 12. The lecture will be held in English

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Kawaskai says that because the Japanese education system largely avoids this part of its World War II history, “many Japanese participants are shocked to listen to the brutal memories,” as told by Lee he said.

Japan’s current political climate, Kawasaki adds, plays a role in this.

“[T]he current Japanese political leaders, including the prime minister himself and those supporting him, have been promoting an ideological campaign to deny the past which has had certain impact on the public opinions of the Japanese people,” Kawasaki said.

Which is why, he added, that Peace Boat is critically important because the kinds of grass-roots education that it uses will “bear fruit in the long term to restore the Japanese people’s common sense [and] admit to past crimes, to make their apologies and become a responsible player to build peace in the region.”


Peace Boat is a novel concept. It was begun in 1983 by Japanese university students Yoshioka Tatsuya and Kiyomi Tsujimoto in response to Japan’s whitewashing of its World War II history. Since then, it has broadened its mandate to include raising awareness and building connections with like-minded NGOs throughout the globe that work for peace, human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development.

Peace Boat also refers to one of the two large passenger ships, Ocean Dream and Zenith, embarking under the name of the NGO for in situ peace education. Since its founding, the organization has made over 100 voyages, sending over 70,000 participants to 270 ports.

Peace Boat is set to make a stop at Keelung in December next year.

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