Teach in Peace (@robwilsonwork, 2018)
Teach in Peace (@robwilsonwork, 2018)

Fostering peace through education: A priority for Japanese and Korean unions

published 27 May 2024 updated 29 May 2024

In a world overrun with conflict and war, the story of education unions in Japan and Korea is an example of how education can be used to build peace. The two nations share a complicated history. They have fought on and off since at least the 7th Century. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea, turning the territory into a colony. By the late 1930s, Japan began to force people to work in the factories and mines, or enlist as soldiers. It also sent tens of thousands of "comfort women" from across Asia - many of them Korean - into military brothels to service Japanese soldiers. Nowadays, education unions in both countries are committed to peace education, as Tamaki Terazawa, Director of International Affairs from the Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU), and Hyunsu Hwang, International Secretary of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU), emphasized.

For a peaceful and democratic Japanese nation

Tamaki Terazawa of JTU highlighted peace education as a cornerstone of the union's values, reflecting on Japan's wartime history and the educators' remorse over their wartime roles. "The formation of a peaceful and democratic nation hinges on the power of education," Terazawa stated, advocating for a curriculum that acknowledges Japan's aggressions as well as its victimhood. He underscored the union's commitment to never repeat the past mistakes, with peace education being the guiding principle. “In this regard, our joint China/Japan/Korea biennial assembly for practical exchange on peace education is of real value,” she said.

South Korea’s commitment to promote cross-cultural understanding

Hyunsu Hwang from KTU echoed the sentiment, underscoring peace education as a core mission in South Korea. He outlined how peace education equips students with the necessary skills, attitudes, and knowledge to foster peace and promote cross-cultural understanding. Hwang also touched upon the unique situation of Korea's division and the contrasting governmental approaches towards North Korea, advocating for peaceful reunification and the importance of historical accuracy in education. He emphasized: “The peaceful approach of KTU is reflected in its logo: The red part stands for North Korea, the blue part for South Korea. And the students are in the middle.”

Collaborative efforts for a peaceful future

Both union representatives stressed the educators' role in sowing seeds of peace among students and the need for collaboration among neighboring countries to advance peace education and craft a more peaceful and cooperative global community.